Player of the Day: Johnny Mapson

by Stuart Vose

Goalkeeper in today's spotlight.

Johnny Mapson’s career with Sunderland is perhaps one of the most fascinating, eventful and surprising tales in the club’s history.

Born out of tragedy, teenager Mapson would win a title and the 1937 FA Cup in his first two of 18 years spent with the club, only disrupted by World War II.

When 22-year-old goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe received a kick to the head while playing against Chelsea, few thought it would lead to his death just four days later from a diabetic coma.

Though the club was in shock, they were challenging for the First Division title in 1936 and manager Johnny Cochrane opted for a surprise replacement in the form of Mapson, an 18-year-old who had made only a handful of Third Division appearances for Reading FC, at a cost of £2000.

Though he kept a clean sheet on his debut – a 5-0 win over Portsmouth at Roker Park - Mapson narrowly missed out on a championship medal that season, as he had only made seven appearances, not enough to warrant a physical prize.

The following year however, he would lift the FA Cup just a day before his 20th birthday, as he appeared in all but one of Sunderland’s games in the 1936-37 campaign.

The goalkeeper played against South Africa in 1939 as part of a Football Association tour and also represented England against Wales during a war-time international.

The Swindon born former milk boy stayed as Sunderland’s first choice until the beginning of World War II when the football season was called off after only three games.

Mpason would return south for a job at an engineering works, occasionally turning out for Reading during war-time games.

At the end of the war he returned to Sunderland where he stayed the club’s first choice until the 1951-52 season when he and Robert Robinson would share the number one jersey, then in the 1952-53 season Mapson would lose out to Harry Threadgold.

Totalling an impressive 383 appearances for Sunderland, the north east became Mapson’s home. He retired from the game in 1954 and lived in Washington with his daughter until, as the last surviving member of the 1937 FA Cup winning side, he passed away in 1999.