JOHN Sutherland, (86), the former Evergreen, Everton, Chesterfield and Crewe full-back, who was a proud Leesider, passed away recently in Nantwich, Cheshire.
He left the city 70 years ago to pursue a career as a professional footballer.
In those days, with some exceptions, talented footballers with hope in their hearts and stardust in their eyes headed for either London and West Ham or Merseyside and Everton, clubs with huge Irish connections.
John Sutherland who won an FAI Minor Cup medal with the star-studded Evergreen in 1949 had a preference for Lancashire and sailed on the Innisfallen to Holyhead and by train to Lime Street Station, Liverpool. He arrived in Goodison Park two months after being capped by the Irish Youths against England.
John served his time in the reserves at Goodison before making the breakthrough in 1956-57 when he made his debut against Wolves and Everton finished in 15th position behind the ill-fated champions Manchester United. All their eggs were in the one basket and the Toffees set their sights on the FA Cup.
With John starring in the number two jersey, they defeated Blackburn in round three which set them up for a home tie against West Ham.
There was a distinct Leeside element about this match of the day with Noel Cantwell captaining the Hammers and renewing old acquaintances with John, a regular opponent of his in Munster Minor League fixtures between Western Rovers and Evergreen.
Everton, with John and fellow Corkonian Don Donovan partners in an impregnable defence, won 1-0 to qualify for a fifth-round clash with the mighty Busby Babes. It was a bridge too far for the Merseysiders as the brilliant United, many of whom later perished in the Munich disaster, advanced by the narrowest of margins.
In 1957 John transferred to Chesterfield and played 47 times with them in the old Third Division North. A year later he was on his travels again, this time to Crewe.
Unfortunately, it was to be his last port of call as on his 47th appearance he damaged a cruciate and on advice from surgeon Terence MacSwiney, a nephew of the martyred Republican former Cork Lord-Mayor, he retired from football.
Fortunately for John, Terence was an Evertonian and he arranged for him to begin a new career with Prudential Insurance.
John, who returned to Cork annually, also won a GAA medal with Nemo Rangers Juveniles in 1946.
In 2010, he was designated a Cork Soccer Legend to take his place on the prestigious roll of honour alongside his Everton teammate Don Donovan, and other illustrious exiled stars like Frank O’Farrell, Charlie Hurley and Noel Cantwell.
May he rest in peace.