SAFC Legends Series – Gary Rowell

A local boy, born in Sunderland in 1957, Gary Rowell signed for Sunderland as an apprentice in 1972 at the age of 15.

Rowell was known for being able to play in a number of positions, but he spent the majority of his career as a deep lying forward, or in midfield.

Rowell scored a total of 102 goals for Sunderland, which was the post-war record after surpassing the great, Len Shackleton who had scored 101 goals for the Black Cats.

This record stood until Super Kevin Phillips came along and he broke the record, scoring 130 goals.

He signed his first professional contract at the start of the 1975/76 season and he made his debut against Oldham Athletic on March 20th, 1976.

Rowell started another 2 games in his first season, and scored his first goal in just his second start for the lads in a 4-1 victory over Hull City.

Sunderland were promoted to Division 1 that season, and Rowell became a regular, playing 32 games and scoring 5 goals.

Sunderland were relegated straight back down the 2nd Division, but Gary Rowell began to impress in their first season back their.

At the age of just 20, Gary Rowell scored 18 goals in 30 appearances in the league as The Black Cats finished 6th, missing out on promotion.

Rowell’s form continued into the following season, where he scored 21 goals in 32 appearances as Sunderland finished 4th, narrowly missing out on promotion again.

He probably had his most notable game in this season though, when he scored a hat-trick away to Newcastle in a 1-4 victory at St. James’ Park back in February 1979.

In 1979, Rowell sustained a bad knee injury, which effected his career as he struggled to get back to full fitness.

Despite only playing 17 games in the 1979/80 season, and failing to score a league goal, Sunderland were finally promoted back to the top-tier.

Rowell played 4 consecutive seasons in Division 1 with Sunderland, scoring 43 goals in 130 appearances.

He was sold in 1984, by Len Ashurst as he began his rebuilding process and Rowell had stints at Norwich, Middlesbrough, Brighton and Carlisle before retiring in 1990 whilst playing for Burnley.

In 2005, Gary Rowell was voted as: “Sunderland’s all-time Cult Hero”, on the T.V Show, Football Focus.

it has been 39 years since Rowell played his last game for Sunderland, but the fans still sing: “We all live in a Gary Rowell world”, which just shows how respected he is in this part of the country.