It is with a feeling of deep sorrow that I have just learned of the death of David Hannah, and I would be failing in great obligation I owe to the memory of a dear old pal did I not write a few lines of appreciation of what I saw of him as a player, states Mr. W. Perry, of 21 William Street, Sunderland.
The first time I had the pleasure of watching him play was when he was in that famous Renton team of the late ‘Eighties, when they were the champions of the world, and playing alongside another dear old friend in Johnny Campbell. They were both youngsters then, Johnny was 18 years of age and Davy 19, but their methods of paving their way through a really strong Sunderland defence of that time was something of a revelation.
One thing that struck me was the way they attended to the wants of the other. Little did I think on that New Year’s day of 1889 that in the years to come both of them were to adorn the colours of Sunderland’s future “Team of all the Talents.”
To those who may wonder what sort of a player David Hannah was really like, let him, if he can, recall the foxy holding of the ball by George Holley, and that gliding pass from the right foot of Charlie Buchan: then they will get the but a slight glimpse of what David Hannah really was.
In addition he was a beautiful goalgetter, but his greatest delight was never in the scoring of goals; it lay in his feeding of the big guns on either side of him. That artful pass of his with either foot, through a defence was the means of scoring more goals than from any inside forward I ever knew.
With the demise of David Hannah there is not one left of that wonderful forward line that first brought the League championship to Sunderland in 1892. Those days are now far away, but I still think of the amazing juggling of James Hannah; the wonderful command of the ball, and the ferocious shooting of James Miller; the magnificent dribbling of John Campbell and his driving power, together with his genius for keeping the man supplied with the ball when on the top of his game.
For that alone he was worthy of his title as “the Prince of centre forwards.” How this trio could burst through a defence at tremendous speed, and shoot on the run was sufficient to make defenders, men whose positions to this day have never been filled by their respective clubs cry out for mercy.
Than at outside left was Jock Scott who was never known to place a corner kick, or a centre a ball behind the goal-line. These men, together with the ingenuity of David Hannah formed a line that had to be seen to be believed.
In addition to all their extraordinary abilities, they had secret signs, only known to a little circle. When I think of all their arts, and the parts they played, the more I am struck with admiration, and wonder whether I shall ever see their likes again.
David Hannah, like the rest of that team, loved football so dearly that he would gladly have played a game every day of the week. Well, do I remember the time when the play of the “Team of all the Talents” was so enchanting to the public, that invitations for matches came not only from clubs all over Great Britain, but many league clubs asked for an encore. Such was the number, that Tom Watson, the Sunderland Secretary, gave way to their pleadings and fixed up 16 matches in one match, and all away from home.
When Tom looked up his programme he almost thought shame to inform the players of what he demanded from them. Then when the news had to be broken to the players to enable them to make arrangements about leaving their work for a month, they pulled Tom’s leg for not fixing up Sundays as well.
From my old daily diary that I kept for family reasons, I could fill every line in this Echo and many more besides about those great men and their poor wages, but these I must conserve for other pages.
Copyright - Sunderland Daily Echo - Transcribed by Kjell Hanssen