Picture: Peadar O'Sullivan
Any mention of Charlie Hurley takes me straight back not just to Roker Park, where I spent a fair old part of my youth, but to the Old Shildon Workingmen's Club of the late 1960s.
News of the publication of Mark Metcalf's new biography - Charlie Hurley: The Greatest Centre Half The World Has Ever Seen - has done the trick again.
Charlie, of course, was an absolute hero in all Sunderland-supporting areas of the North East, which broadly speaking meant the vast majority of County Durham. Sunderland was a proud component of the county in those days, ahead of the ludicrous invention of Tyne and Wear, and was widely seen as the county football team, the equivalent of Durham County Cricket Club.
Our hero made 357 appearances for the club in a fabulous Roker Park career stretching from 1957 to 1969. When he made his debut, in the first relegation season in Sunderland's history, he was on the receiving end of a 7-0 drubbing at Blackpool. So everything that followed (that relegation apart) must have seemed like an improvement.
And he was a great footballer, a rock in defence and a constant menace going up for corners. I could have done without the penalty miss at home to Bury on Boxing Day 1962, the game in which Brian Clough suffered the knee injury that was to end his own career. But all my other memories of Charlie are good ones.
And, of course, he's a real gent. His association with Sunderland AFC has continued throughout the four decades that have just about elapsed since he moved on. I have seen him at numerous games, and he always throws himself wholeheartedly and selflessly into a variety of functions connected to SAFC.
One such occasion, while he was still playing for Sunderland, took him to Old Shildon WMC. It was a Four of Clubs charity event - representing the four WMCs in the town: Elm Road, New Shildon and (I think) Sunnydale being the others - and my exalted status as son of the club secretary meant Charlie was at my table. Or rather, I was at his.
Until that evening, I had no idea quite how many people in Shildon knew me. Not only knew me, but wanted my company.
A steady stream of Shildon males of all ages beat a path to my table that night. "Colin," each of them would say. "How you doing?" But despite their apparent attraction to me, their eyes were oddly focused elsewhere. On Charlie. And having made the pretence of wanting to speak to me, they'd exclaim: "Charlie! Fancy seeing you here."
Then there'd be the SAFC small talk, the autographs and so on. In truth, I didn't mind my role as the route to the king. Every sovereign needs his courtiers.