1880: Christening Day

Today marks 140 years since what we now know as Sunderland AFC announced itself to the world.

At a meeting at Rectory Park School, in Paley Street, Bishopwearmouth, the teachers who had been playing football together for around a year announced that they had formed a team ready to take part in competitive football.

Three days earlier, the Athletic News newspaper had carried an advertisement welcoming entries into the newly formed Northumberland and Durham Cup, with the closing date for this competition being on the 25th of the following month.

This advertisement, and the opportunity to pit their talents against other teams, evidently inspired the founding fathers of the club to put forward their name for the competition. A report of this appeared in the Sunderland Echo the following Monday night, the meeting having been held, appropriately enough, on a Saturday.

Recognised as the founder of the club, James Allan was a Scottish schoolteacher who had first come to Wearside in April 1879. Allan had played Association football at Glasgow University but the game which has dominated Sunderland for decades was unknown in the area until Allan’s arrival.

He brought back a football - as opposed to a rugby ball, rugby already being prominent in Sunderland - from a trip home north of the border during school holidays and began to introduce the game to colleagues and friends. Initially, they simply played for fun as they developed an aptitude in the game, eventually reaching the point where they were confident enough to enter the new competition of the Northumberland and Durham Cup.

The meeting on this day in 1880 was not called specifically for the purpose of announcing that Sunderland had a club ready to take part in competitive football. The meeting was part of a regular meeting of the Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association, with the announcement of the football club likely to have been brought up under ‘any other business.’

Since then of course there has been an awful lot of business concerned with the football club, which as we all know has one of the richest histories in the game, one that has besotted people for generations and spawned a huge and loyal fan-base.

The meeting held 140 years ago today can be seen as the equivalent of the Christening of the club whose origins stretch back a further year. Nonetheless this is in no way meant to diminish the importance of the meeting on 25 September 1880, which introduced Sunderland to the wider world.

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