Formed 139 years ago, Sunderland AFC is one of the most successful club’s in the English game.
Five-time champions of England, the club has a rich history steeped in success, from record-breaking seasons to FA Cup triumphs.
Here, you can charter every step of the club’s continuing journey…
1879 – FORMATION
Sunderland AFC were formed in 1879 at a meeting of schoolteachers called by James Allan, who had started teaching at Hendon Board School. At first, the club was called Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association Football Club, but one year later, non-teachers were allowed to join and the club’s name was changed to Sunderland AFC.
1892 – CHAMPIONS
Sunderland remained in the First Division for 68 years, winning six league titles along the way as legends were born and records were set. The club were crowned champions in 1892, 1893 and 1895.
1898 – ROKER PARK
A move to Roker Park, which was to become the club’s home for almost a century, came in 1898.
1902 – CHAMPIONS AGAIN
The 20th century began with another title success in 1902. A record-breaking 9-1 win at St James’ Park came in 1908 against Newcastle United, with a fifth top-flight title secured in 1913, as the Black Cats bounced back from five defeats in their opening seven games to win 25 out of the next 31. That year, Sunderland also reached the FA Cup final, but they suffered Wembley heartbreak as Aston Villa secured a 1-0 win.
1936 – BACK ON TOP
Sunderland were champions again in 1936, as England international Raich Carter led them to Wembley glory, and one season later, they made history yet again as captain Carter led the club to their first FA Cup triumph courtesy of a 3-1 win over Preston North End at Wembley. The team also included Gurney, whose 228 goals remains a club record.
1949 – BANK OF ENGLAND ERA
After football resumed following World War II, Sunderland continued to be a major force within the game. The Lads finished third that year, though, missing out on the title by a solitary point. And that was a familiar theme that played out throughout the 50s, as the ‘Bank of England’ club, who were renowned for their unrivalled investment, failed to live up to the hype.
1958 – REBORN
The Black Cats exited the top flight for the first time in 1958. Alan Brown rebuilt the side, combining young players including Jimmy Montgomery and Len Ashurst with astute buys such as George Herd, Brian Clough and Charlie Hurley, but Clough’s time at Sunderland and as a player was cruelly cut short due to an injury suffered on Boxing Day 1962.
1964 – UPS AND DOWNS
Sunderland still managed to bounce back sealing a top-flight return in 1964, but Brown’s dismissal and a return to the ‘Bank of England’ policy saw the team dismantled and it culminated in a second relegation in 1970. Bob Stokoe was soon installed as manager and the rest, as they say, is history.
1973 – THE UNLIKELY LADS
The legendary manager guided Sunderland to their second FA Cup success, with a dramatic and unlikely win over Leeds United in the 1973 final, before guiding the club back to the First Division in 1976. Unfortunately, the return was not consolidated, and relegation once again followed before managers came and went in rapid succession during the 80s.
1987 – THIRD TIER CAMEO
In 1987, Sunderland were victims of the new play-off system which at the time included teams at the bottom of the table, but in 1988 the club returned to the Second Division under Denis Smith in emphatic fashion.
1990 – BACK IN THE BIG TIME
Sunderland were promoted once more soon after, albeit in strange circumstances. After losing in the play-off final at Wembley, the Lads were promoted anyway due to Swindon Town being refused entry to the top flight owing to financial misdemeanours.
1992 – THE PREMIERSHIP
The Premiership formed in 1992 before Peter Reid arrived on Wearside tasked with securing promotion. And in his first full season, he secured the First Division title with 83 points.
1997 – THE STADIUM OF LIGHT
In 1997, the club bid farewell to Roker Park and moved into the Stadium of Light. Sir Bob Murray led the project from start to finish, and the Lads’ new home, which was built on the former site of the Monkwearmouth Colliery by Ballast Wiltshire plc, opened with a showpiece game against Ajax in July 1997. The original capacity was 42,000, which subsequently increased when an extension to add another tier to the north end of the ground opened in 2000.
1999 – RECORD BREAKERS
One season after suffering play-off final heartbreak at Wembley, Sunderland made no mistake and secured promotion with a record-shattering 105 points, and this time they capitalised on their success with Reid guiding the club to seventh place in the top flight – their highest position for 45 years.
2006 – ROY’S BOYS
The summer of 2006 yielded a monumental change, as Drumaville Consortium headed by Niall Quinn gained control of the club. A slow start to the Championship season saw Roy Keane replace Quinn as manager, and the Irishman made an immediate impact firing Sunderland up the table as the title was secured.
2009 – PREMIER LEAGUE YEARS
In 2008, Ellis Short gained a controlling interest in the club before completing a deal to take charge in May 2009. The likes of Ricky Sbragia, Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Paolo Di Canio, Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat took charge of the Lads in the top flight, completing some of the greatest escapes in football history. A spell that also saw the Lads record a memorable string of 'Six in a Row' derby victories over local rivals Newcastle United.
2016 – SEASONS TO FORGET
Sunderland remained in the Premier League until May 2017, as David Moyes’ side were relegated following a disappointing campaign. A successive relegation followed under Chris Coleman, who replaced Simon Grayson following his dismissal in October 2017, as the Black Cats plunged into the third tier for only the second time in their history.
2020 – LEAGUE ONE & WEMBLEY WOE
A new era began in May 2018, as Stewart Donald took charge of the club. Jack Ross was appointed manager and the Scot led the club to Wembley Stadium twice during the 2018-19 campaign. The Black Cats suffered capital heartbreak on both occasions, though, losing to Portsmouth on penalties in the EFL Trophy final before a last-minute winner secured victory for Charlton Athletic in the League One Play-Off final. Ross was replaced by Phil Parkinson on 17 October 2019, but the former Bolton Wanderers boss saw promotion hopes dashed when 2019-20 season was curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.