SAFC in a nutshell...
Sunderland Football Club began its life in October 1879 at a meeting of schoolteachers called by James Allan, graduate of Glasgow University, who had started teaching at Hendon Board School. At first the club was called Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association Football Club. After the first year, non-teachers were allowed to join and the name was changed to Sunderland AFC.
Their first ground was Blue House Field at Hendon. After two years there, two at a ground at Ashbrooke and a brief spell playing near The Cedars in Sunderland, the club moved north of the river, to fields in Roker and Fulwell, and then in 1886 to Newcastle Road - with stands which could hold 15,000 spectators. In 1882 they played in blue shirts, blue knickerbockers and a white stripe, using the playing formation of 188.8.131.52.
In 1884 the club won its first trophy. There were now so many football clubs around the country that the FA set up county competitions. Sunderland were the first winners of the Durham Senior Cup. When they were drawn to play against Redcar (near Middlesbrough), the Redcar secretary asked, “Where is Sunderland?”. The world of football would soon find out!
In 1887 the club was almost destroyed. Clubs in England (but not Scotland) had been allowed to pay players since 1885. New players from Scotland were being brought into the Sunderland team, taking the places of local men. James Allan left the club, taking many of the best players with him, and set up a rival club called Sunderland Albion.
The town could not afford to support two football clubs and there was intense rivalry between them before a winner emerged.
With wealthy directors like shipbuilder Robert Thompson and coal owner Samuel Tyzack, Sunderland brought in more talented young Scottish players and applied to join the Football League. Their successful record in friendly matches against league teams helped their cause. When they beat Aston Villa 7-2 in 1889 a Villa official, William McGregor,(the league’s founder) said that Sunderland had a talented player in every position.
The following year this ‘Team of All The Talents’ was elected to the league. Sunderland Albion soon faded from the scene.
In 1890 the League elected Sunderland to join in place of Stoke. A notice outside the ground said “We have arrived and we are staying here”. Sunderland remained in the first division for 68 years, until then being the last team to have only played in the top division. The first league game for Sunderland was a 3-2 home defeat by Burnley.
Sunderland were league champions in 1892, 1893 and 1895, the first club to win three championships and the first to score 100 goals in a season. In 1892 the League expanded by adding a second division of twelve clubs. Promotion to the first division was not automatic until 1898.
As the 19th century reached its end, the club was rebuilding on and off the field. A new, larger stadium was built at Roker Park in 1898 and new players were brought in to replace the great side of the 90s. The first match at Roker, on September 10, 1898, brought a 1-0 win over Liverpool.
The 20th century began with another league championship in 1902. In 1905
Sunderland sold Alf Common to Middlesbrough for £1,000, the first four-figure transfer fee. In 1908 Sunderland met Newcastle United at St. James’ Park and Sunderland recorded a 9-1 win, scoring eight times in the second half! The record still stands as the top-flight’s joint-biggest away win.
This was perhaps Sunderland’s best ever season, though it started badly with two draws and five defeats in the first seven league games. The remaining 31 matches included 25 victories. Sunderland were league champions for the fifth time.
Sunderland reached the FA Cup Final for the first time, only to lose 1-0 to league runners-up Aston Villa. The same year the old wooden terracing at the Roker End of Roker Park was replaced with concrete (cost about £20,000) increasing the ground capacity to about 50,000.
In 1925 Charles Buchan, a veteran of the 1912-13 season, was transferred to Arsenal for £2,000 plus £100 per goal scored. He played in 379 league games for Sunderland, scoring 209 league goals, the first player to pass 200 for the club. His replacement was David Halliday from Dundee, and at the same time 17-year-old Bobby Gurney joined the club. Meanwhile the Football League added two more divisions, three South (1920) and North (1921).
The 1927-28 season ended with a dramatic final match at Middlesbrough. The losers would be relegated to the second division of the league, Sunderland won 3-0 to send Middlesbrough down. The next year Dave Halliday scored 43 goals in 42 league games, a club record unlikely ever to be broken. Also this year, the main Stand at Roker Park was built, taking the capacity to around 60,000.
In 1932 Raich Carter played his first match for the club at the age of 18. Before the end of the season he was an England international and would become one of the all-time greats of Sunderland and English football.
An FA Cup replay with Derby County in 1933 drew a record 75,118 spectators, (on a Wednesday afternoon - there were no floodlights in those days!) another record which will never be challenged.
Sunderland were league champions again in 1936, scoring 109 goals (Carter and Gurney scored 31 each), but this time the celebrations were less whole-hearted. Goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe had died late in the season after being kicked during a game. He was just 22. This year the Clock Stand was built. Like the Main Stand it was designed by Archibald Leitch, the most famous architect of sports grounds of those days.
Sunderland’s second FA Cup Final brought their first victory. A 3-1 win over Preston at Wembley brought the famous trophy to Wearside for the first time. Raich Carter was made captain (the usual captain, Alex Hastings, was injured). Among the many stars of that team was Bobby Gurney whose 228 goals in league and cup are still a club record. He retired in 1939 when league football was again suspended by war. Goalkeeper Johnny Mapson was still a teenager at the time of the final and stayed with the club until 1954.
Len Shackleton signed from Newcastle United for a then record fee of £20,050. Nicknamed the “Clown Prince of Soccer”, Shackleton entertained and amused fans with his exceptional skills.
In 1949-50 Sunderland’s total gates for home league matches were more than a million, at an average of 47,832. On six occasions over 60,000 turned up. Sunderland finished third that year, missing the Championship by just one point.
During the 1950’s Sunderland earned the title “Bank of England Club” for a succession of expensive transfers. Among the notable players of the 50s was Willie Watson, one of the very few men to play for England at both football and cricket. The year 1955 saw fourth place in the league and defeat in the semi-final of the cup. Sunderland would be beaten semi-finalists again a year later. For 1957-58 the club began to build again with young players under a new manager, Alan Brown. The whole season was a struggle, but a late recovery gave hope and they won their last match away to Portsmouth, only to find that rivals Leicester had also won. Sunderland’s record 57-season run in the first division had come to an end.
Alan Brown rebuilt the side, combining young players such as Jim Montgomery and Len Ashurst with astute buys like George Herd, Brian Clough and Charlie Hurley. On Boxing Day 1962, Clough was injured in a match at Roker and his playing career ended at the age of 28. He had already scored 24 goals that season and threatened Dave Halliday’s record. His 18 months in the Sunderland team brought 53 goals in 58 games.
Even without Brian Clough the team won promotion to the First Division in 1964, but manager Brown left the club and his team was soon dismantled in a return to the Bank of England policy. The club was never far from the bottom of the division and a second relegation followed in 1970. In 1966 four World Cup matches were played at Roker Park.
New manager Bob Stokoe took over with the team struggling in the league yet produced the most dramatic revival with a second cup final victory in 1973. After beating cup favourites Manchester City and Arsenal, they overcame Leeds United, the cup holders, by one goal, the first time a second division team had won the cup for 40 years. The match is remembered for Ian Porterfield’s goal and Jimmy Montgomery’s brilliant double save. It was also a triumph for captain Bobby Kerr, the team’s ‘little general’ who had twice recovered from leg fractures. Dave Watson and Dennis Tueart went on to play for England.
Sunderland were second division champions in 1976 with a team which included Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson and a young Gary Rowell. They seemed to be on the way back towards real success. However, poor results and long-term injuries led to manager Stokoe resigning and the club was relegated again under manager Jimmy Adamson. Goalkeeper Montgomery, the only survivor from the 1964 team, went on to set a new appearance record with 537 league games.
The year of the club’s centenary should have seen great celebrations, but they were still in the second division and crowds were declining. Charlie Hurley is named Supporters’ Association's 'Player of the Century’.
Managers came and went in rapid succession during the 80s. Promoted again under Ken Knighton in 1980, three years of struggle with Alan Durban in charge, relegated in 1985 under Len Ashurst. The same season they lost 1-0 (an own goal) to Norwich City at Wembley in the Milk Cup Final. But then in 1987 Sunderland were relegated to the third division after two years under Lawrie McMenemy. Sunderland were among the first victims of the newly-introduced play-offs, when they also involved teams at the bottom of the table.
The third division championship in 1988 does not seem an achievement when set against Sunderland’s great past, but the team and manager Denis Smith did all that could be asked of them, winning more points and scoring more goals than any team in any division.
Sunderland were promoted to the first division following a semi final victory over Newcastle United. Unexpectedly, Swindon Town were thrown out of the final due to rule breaking, resulting in Sunderland’s automatic return to the top flight.
In 1992 the FA Premiership was formed as wealth in football divided football clubs.
In the 1994-95 season, Peter Reid was appointed after Malcolm Crosby, Terry Butcher and Mick Buxton all failed to gain promotion in recent years. In Reid’s first full season in charge he secured promotion to the Premiership winning the First Division championship with 83 points.
Sunderland managed to stay in the Premiership for only one season, being relegated with a record high 40 points. In 1997 the club said goodbye to Roker Park after 99 years before moving to a 42,000 all-seater stadium, the Sunderland Stadium of Light. In their first season at their home, Sunderland finished third and reached the play-off final against Charlton Athletic. The game was one of the finest that the home of English football had ever witnessed, finishing 4-4 after extra, with Charlton eventually winning 7-6 on penalties.
Fans’ favourite Kevin Phillips became the first player to score 35 in a season for the Black Cats, beating Brian Clough’s record of 34 which stood since 1962.
Sunderland made no mistakes one season later, gaining promotion to the Premiership with a record breaking 105 points, including a 24 match unbeaten run with an average attendance of 38,724- the third highest in English football.
This time round in the Premiership in 1999-2000, Reid guided Sunderland to a remarkable 7th place finish - the club’s highest position for 45 years. Kevin Phillips continued his fine form, notching 30 Premiership goals to become the only ever Englishman to win the European Golden Boot.
Sunderland retained their position as ‘Cock of the North’ with another seventh-place finish. Phillips became only the third Sunderland player since the war to score 100 goals. This season saw the opening of the extension to the North Stand, which increased the capacity of the Stadium of Light to 48,300, and also saw the club achieve their second highest average crowd in the club's history.
Sunderland recorded back-to-back victories just once and as a result the Lads only briefly flirted with the leading positions in the table. Fifth in October after SuperKev’s 100th league goal for the club at Bolton in September, Sunderland hovered around mid-table for much of the season before sliding into the lower reaches in the last few weeks of the campaign, eventually clinging on to their Premiership status, finishing 17th. Six Sunderland players starred in the 2002 World Cup Finals, held in Korea and Japan.
Sunderland finished bottom of the table for the first time ever, setting several unwanted records as they propped up the Premiership. Peter Reid’s seven-year reign ended in October, with Howard Wilkinson taking over for 20 forgettable games that brought two wins before he was also replaced by former Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy in March.
Mick McCarthy’s first full season in charge at the Stadium of Light saw considerable changes to the playing squad. More than 20 players left the club, while Republic of Ireland international Gary Breen and international team-mate Colin Healy were among the nine new arrivals. Some outstanding performances, including victory over Premiership side Birmingham, saw the club reach the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in 12 years, and McCarthy’s men took third spot in the league, securing their place in a play-off semi-final against Crystal Palace. The Black Cats narrowly missed out on the final following a dramatic 5-4 penalty shoot-out at the Stadium of Light.
Mick McCarthy again made big changes to his playing squad, bringing in several new faces including Dean Whitehead, Liam Lawrence, Stephen Elliott, Steven Caldwell and Carl Robinson, and McCarthy’s bright young side took the Black Cats back to the Premiership by winning the Championship title before the last game of the season, celebrating it in style with a 1-0 win over Stoke on the final day as Gary Breen lifted the Championship trophy at the Stadium of Light. Later followed glorious scenes of a euphoric Civic parade through the City centre.
The cheers turned to tears for Sunderland fans after another frustrating Premiership season. The Black Cats lost their first five league games and, despite eventually getting a 1-1 draw at home to West Brom followed by a 2-0 win at Middlesbrough, a disastrous run of results saw them drift further and further from safety at the foot of the table. After 28 games – which brought just two wins, four draws and 22 defeats – Sunderland parted company with boss Mick McCarthy in March after the Yorkshireman spent just under three years in charge. Former player and club captain Kevin Ball was appointed caretaker manager to take charge of the final 10 league games of the season, but there was no way back as Sunderland headed back to the Championship.
The summer of 2006 was one of monumental changes. Niall Quinn’s Irish-based Drumaville consortium gained control of the club with Quinn appointing himself as manager. After four games, former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United captain Roy Keane was appointed manager. He watched Quinn’s last game in charge – a 2-0 win at home to West Brom – before officially taking over the reigns on August 30. Keane didn’t waste any time, signing six players on the Transfer Window deadline day. It had an instant impact on results and the Black Cats slowly started to climb the Championship table. But it was the turn of the year that really saw the Wearsiders turn the tables, as they went on an amazing, 17-match unbeaten run. Keane’s side completed an unforgettable, rollercoaster season on the final day of the campaign when a 5-0 win at Luton sealed the Championship title, and the club and its supporters were looking forward to Premiership football yet again.
Keane made further extensive changes in summer 2007, spending £35m in the transfer market recruiting 11 new players including the £9m capture of Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon from Hearts in a new club record buy, which was also a British record for a goalkeeper. He also signed Trinidad and Tobago international striker Kenwyne Jones from Southampton in a £6m deal just days before the end of the August transfer window, while also letting eight players leave. During the January transfer window. Keane brought Manchester United centre-back Jonny Evans back on loan for a second time, while also signing right-back Phil Bardsley from Manchester United, midfielder Andy Reid from Charlton and Swedish striker Rade Prica from Danish club Aalborg. They proved to be crucial signings as Sunderland retained their Premier League status with two games to go – finishing 15th in the table, three points above the relegation zone.
In the summer of 2008, Roy Keane added former Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse to his squad on a season-long loan. The summer also saw the arrival of El-Hadji Diouf and Pascal Chimbonda, both of whom departed in the January transfer window.
Roy Keane stepped down from his post in November 2008 and Chairman Niall Quinn appointed first team coach Ricky Sbragia to take control for the remainder of the season. Sbragia guided the club to safety, ensuring top flight status for 2009-10 before stepping down after the final game of the season. The highlight of the 2008-09 season was the home victory over North East rivals Newcastle United. A powerful free kick from Kieran Richardson saw the Black Cats seal a long-overdue 2-1 win. SAFC go into the 2009-10 season with Steve Bruce in charge after he was appointed as manager in June 2009.
Newly appointed manager Steve Bruce was quick to make squad changes breaking the club’s transfer record with the £10m acquisition of England striker Darren Bent from Tottenham Hotspur. The summer also saw the arrivals of Albania and Paraguay national captains Lorik Cana and Paulo Da Silva. Bruce also snapped up young stars Lee Cattermole and Fraizer Campbell.
Under Bruce’s guidance, the Black Cats made their best ever start to a Premier League season. Sunderland AFC scored the most talked about goal of the season when Darren Bent’s shot deflected off a beachball to give Sunderland a famous 1-0 home win over Liverpool. The striker also managed to find the net on 24 more occasions, making him the second SAFC player to score over 20 goals in a top flight season since Kevin Phillips.
Sunderland recorded only three defeats at the Stadium of Light all season, ultimately finishing in 13th spot, the Club’s best ever finish since 2000-01. They also scored more home league goals than in any other season in the past 20 years.
A summer of transfer activity preceded another season of solid progress for Steve Bruce’s Sunderland.
Ghanaian superstar Asamoah Gyan was acquired for a club-record £13m in August 2010, capping a busy summer transfer window during which a host of new faces were welcomed to Wearside.
The squad was further augmented by the signing of Paris Saint-Germain’s Stephane Sessegnon in January 2011 – a move which proved hugely successful.
On the pitch, there were significant strides forward, with Bruce’s men stunning the football world with a 3-0 demolition of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in November. That result came in the midst of a run which saw the Black Cats lose just three of their first 14 league games.
Sunderland sat sixth at the end of January 2011 following a fine 2-1 win at Blackpool and ended the season in 10th position in the Barclays Premier League – the club’s third-highest finish in 55 years.
Bruce was replaced by Martin O'Neill in December 2011, getting his tenure off to a winning start with a 2-1 home victory over Blackburn thanks to goals from two of Sunderland's summer signings, Seb Larsson and David Vaughan.
The Black Cats roared up the Barclays Premier League table, taking 22 points from their first 10 games under O'Neill and eventually finishing in 13th place with 45 points.
The campaign was also notable for a run in the FA Cup, with Sunderland reaching the quarter-finals before being defeated by Everton in a replay on Wearside following a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park.
Sunderland were unbeaten until October to start the season, but a difficult run of form saw the club part company with manager Martin O'Neill at the end of March.
Former Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio came in as Sunderland's head coach, kicking off his reign with a narrow 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.
The highlight of the season was undoubtedly the 3-0 victory over Newcastle at St James' Park, where Stephane Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and David Vaughan found the net.
Sunderland ultimately finished the season in 17th position, three points clear of the relegation zone.