It's all getting a little depressing of late. The results are poor and the football atrocious. Therefore, we thought we'd try and lighten the mood a little and remind ourselves that Sunderland haven't always been this rubbish. In fact, we used to have arguably the best team in the world.
So we turned to our regular guest historian, Mark Metcalf, to tell us about better times with an extract from his book 'In Search Of The Double: Sunderland 1912/13'. Buy it. Your eyes will love you forever.
Over to you Mark.
Sunderland had first entered the FA Cup on 8 November 1884 when they lost 3-1 away to Redcar. By 1913, and despite having captured the League Championship on four occasions, Sunderland had failed to reach the final of what was by this time the most famous football competition in the world.
Having defeated Newcastle at the third attempt in the quarter finals of the 1912-13 competition, Sunderland faced Second Division Burnley in the semi-final.
FA Cup Semi Final Quotes
Prior to the semi final at Bramall Lane the Sunderland captain Charlie Thomson said that "we are up against a stiff side but I think we will win. The boys have done well in the holiday matches and I hope we will keep it up on Saturday".
Fred Taylor (Sunderland Chairman)
"The team are showing remarkably good form just now and I have confidence in them pulling through on Saturday".
FA Cup Semi-Final (At Brammall Lane)
Sunderland 0-0 Burnley (29th March 1913)
Referee: Mr. A Adams of Nottingham, Attendance 33,656
Burnley: Dawson, Bamford, Taylor, McLaren, Boyle, Watson, Mosscrop, Lindley, Freeman, Hodgson, Husband
Sunderland: Butler, Gladwin, Ness, Cuggy, Thomson, Low, Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Holley, Martin
It was an unconvincing and out-thought Sunderland who played out a goalless draw in the rain at Bramall Lane. The industrial city of Sheffield does not possess any great brightness or charm at any time of year and here the drab environment of the Bramall Lane ground was deluged with rain that poured down pitilessly until night had fallen. The big Sunderland contingent comforted themselves with the suggestion that the going would suit Sunderland splendidly.
This vast assembly had an unpleasant shock in store when Burnley were undoubtedly the superior team in the 1st half. Sunderland staged a recovery but were never masterful in the 2nd half even when Burnley were tiring before a succession of attacks. Sunderland played only as well as the bustling Burnley side allowed them to and it was a case of Jack being just as good as his master. The conditions were so extraordinarily bad that it is unfair to severely criticise the players.
Yet so often did the ball deceive players on both sides that one wonders what had become of the adaptability of these two leading cup fighters. The frequency with which Mordue was beaten by the ball flashing up at redoubled pace off the boggy ground was astounding. He once found control so difficult that he ran the ball out when only 10 yards from of the upright. There was the amazing sight of Sunderland trying to play close football on a waterlogged pitch in the 1st half.
It was not until the 2nd half that Sunderland started to display odd flashes of brilliance as heavy ground footballers. Before that however Burnley, thanks to the consummate leadership of Boyle had chances of winning the match. These chances were wasted in the 1st half through poor play by Freeman and Hodgson but Sunderland superior stamina would have been of little avail had either of these chances been taken. Then Holley missed an open goal before the interval.
Mordue might have scored towards the end but for a wonderful recovery by Taylor who won an English Cup medal with Bradford City 2 years ago. There you have an epitome of a deluged disappointing semi-final that will be replayed at Birmingham City. The attendance was officially returned as 42,000 and receipts were £2,780. Sunderland's cup harvest is growing and they have so far shared in £15,700. With the exception of Taylor all the stars of the match were halfbacks.
Taylor accomplished 3 fine pieces of defence in the game. In the 1st half Richardson got clear and Taylor chased, overhauled and cleared when his goal was in imminent danger. In the 2nd half Mordue was a yard and a half clear at the halfway line but in another 20 yards Taylor had caught him and ended a dangerous move by clearing into touch. Then in the last 10 minutes a great centre from Holley disarmed the Burnley defence and Mordue ran as if his life depended on it but was beaten to the ball by inches by Taylor.
Had the winger got his foot there first the semi-final would have been settled. Taylor is the fastest player in the game today and Mordue often made the mistake of trying to beat him by pace alone. The halfbacks nearly always held sway and the greatest middle man was Boyle who tackled with rare effect. He swung the ball frequently to his wings and unceasingly tried to bring Freeman's dash into play. Next to him was Cuggy who revelled in the mud larking.
It was really entertaining to see him smothered in mud and with knickers more like bathing drawers searching for work in the 2nd half and pulling the Mordue-Buchan combination together as the Burnley defence tired. Burnley's Watson and McLaren were nippy and enterprising. Thomson led the Sunderland side lustily and was great in defence but not nearly as enterprising in attack as Boyle. Low ended a strenuous afternoon by completely subduing Burnley's best wing in the last 30 minutes.
The great difference in the method of the sides was hardly flattering to the real Sunderland. Sunderland's biggest fault was hesitancy both in attack and defence. They were a shade faster to the ball and just as robust as Burnley and cleverer, but Burnley were more decisive whereas Sunderland wanted to stop and think. Butler had the ball played back to him by Gladwin and Ness far too often and once in the 1st half it almost cost a goal. Butler who kept a faultless goal had to fly kick away from Freeman's foot.
Gladwin was sounder than Ness though both kicked strongly. Ness tackled brilliantly in the 1st half but was lacking in pace. For Burnley Dawson played well though he only had one shot from Mordue to handle while Bonsford was outshone by Taylor at full back. Once Sunderland settled down they were the better side but this did not happen until the last half hour of the game. Then one saw something of the pace of Martin, the artistry of Holley and the delightful ease with which Buchan drew Taylor and then passed the ball to Mordue.
Yet before this Holley and Buchan would not part with the ball, Boyle had bustled Martin into submission and mastered Richardson, and Taylor was too quick for Mordue while Sunderland's finishing was weak. Freeman roved from start to finish and was Burnley's most dangerous attacker. Husband had a great time in the 1st half and Lindley was their best marksman. Hodgson failed sadly in front of goal and Mosscrop could do little with Low. There is a lucky dressing room and an unlucky one at Bramall Lane.
When Sunderland were there last Monday they had the lucky one but Burnley were equally keen on using it and the deadlock was broken by the toss of a coin. Burnley won and Sunderland broke a spell of historic ill luck by avoiding defeat in a cup semi-final for the 1st time at Bramall Lane. They had been beaten on the previous occasions the clubwas in the last 4. The games 1st incident was a weak shot from Freeman and this was followed by a miss by Buchan. Then Bamford fouled Holley on the edge of the penalty area.
Boyle bowled Martin over lustily, Gladwin charged Freeman out of danger in the course of a rapid exchange and then Butler smartly saved a shot from Lindley. Holley let a good chance go by when he scuffed the ball in front of goal and then Dawson made a fine save from Mordue but the best move of the 1st half came close to the interval when McLaren initiated a bold Burnley attack. Ness struggled in the heavy going and could only partially check Freeman and Hodgson who dashed in to the accompaniment of a resounding roar.
Butler rescued Sunderland by fisting away to safety. Sunderland played much more open football in the 2nd half and Dawson fisted away from Mordue while Freeman once forced his way through and Butler kicked away. Buchan playing much more like his old self drew Taylor before passing to Mordue and Boyle ended a lively attack. There was a thrill when Freeman raced past Gladwin and Thomson before parting wildly with the ball before Low bowled him over. Cuggy standing in front of goal blazed it out of danger.
The ball apparently glanced off Lows hand as it sped towards touch but the referee ignored appeals for a penalty kick. Taylor was displaying great defensive work and halted Holley and then Mordue. Soon afterwards Holley dribbled past Bamford and crossed the ball to Mordue who racing in was just forestalled by Taylor. In the last few minutes Burnley revived and Thomson fouled Freeman just outside the penalty area but Low dispossessed Mosscrop and saved the situation.
Aston Villa Make It To Sydenham
Although Sunderland would now have to contest a replay, Aston Villa had no such thoughts as they defeated Oldham Athletic at Ewood Park, Blackburn 1 v 0. They waited on the result of the Sunderland replay to find out who they would play at Sydenham's Crystal Palace ground.
FA Cup Semi-Final Replay (At St. Andrews)
Sunderland 3-2 Burnley (2nd April 1913)
Referee: Mr. A Adams of Nottingham
Burnley: Dawson, Bamford, Taylor, McLaren, Boyle, Watson, Bellamy, Lindley, Freeman, Hodgson, Husband
Sunderland: Butler, Gladwin, Ness, Cuggy, Thomson, Low, Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Holley, Martin
For the first time in their long and honourable history Sunderland have reached the Final of the English Cup. For 29 years the English cup has been a veritable will o' the wisp to the Roker club with the history of struggle during that long period being a record of failure after failure relieved by only 3 appearances in the semi-final prior to this season. Sunderland emerged from this second trial of strength with Burnley with flying colours but it was a grim and determined struggle.
Sunderland were clearly the better team once they had got into their stride but there were spells in the 1st half when they were fighting desperately to hold their opponents. A more thrilling contest would be impossible to imagine. Both teams played good clean football and Burnley were full value for all they got. In the 2nd half Sunderland were in comparatively smooth waters but they had gone through a 1st half grilling that they will long remember.
The game had barely begun when Burnley had the ball in the net but fortunately for Sunderland the referee intervened and ruled offside. It was a moot point and the referee's decision evoked caustic criticism from the Burnley supporters but the official was right on the spot and gave his decision unhesitatingly. Away went Sunderland led by Martin and the fleet footed winger got the better of Bamford and centred. As the ball came across Holley and Richardson both failed to make contact but Buchan bobbed up serenely and headed past the surprised custodian.
For a few moments afterwards it looked as if the Sunderland front rank would have things pretty much their own way but it was not to be. They abandoned the open game that had paid so well and went for artistry and short passing which looked nice but had little purpose and the vigorous though fair Burnley defenders saw to it that the pattern weaving produced no tangible results. Burnley found several routes to goal by open flanking moves that disconcerted the Roker defence.
A centre by Husband gave Freeman and Lindley a chance to score but Gladwin in his eagerness to thwart them handled 3 yards from goal. Boyle beat Butler with the penalty kick. This roused Sunderland who schemed and planned to overrun their opponents with studied side taps and running feints but no matter what artfulness or devices they tried they could not create a shooting opportunity against an uncompromising defence.
Then they had the mortification of seeing Burnley literally waltz past the Sunderland full backs by dispensing with the short stuff and swinging the ball about.
A goal seemed likely at any moment and Freeman made sure that it was not unduly delayed. His chance came when Ness slipped as he tackled and the elusive Freeman scored with a deft tap past Butler. This was a sharp shock to Sunderland who struggled for a time. Burnley were playing all the good football at this stage and there businesslike style seemed the portent of further trouble for Roker side. Thomson tried his utmost to rally his teammates and threw himself into the fray with all the energy and skill at his command.
He plied his forwards with delightful passes and so dominated the play that Sunderland were given the chance of regaining their lost ground. Freeman could not escape Thomson's attention and with their main threat rendered impotent Burnley began to fall back. Sunderland launched attack after attack but nothing came of them. The forwards worked with great skill but only involved themselves in the intricacies of their plans Time and again the right wing beat itself and their insistence on attempting to beat several opponents instead of taking the shortest route to goal was a retrograde step.
Obviously Sunderland were cleverer than their rivals but much of their skill was wasted and at halftime they trailed 2-1 and had not sent in a really troublesome shot at Dawson's goal. Evidently a council of war was held in the dressing room for Sunderland's display in the 2nd half afforded a sharp contrast to the first. The first incident after the resumption indicated the change in tactics. Holley, Richardson and Buchan no longer displayed the lingering affection for the ball that caused all the subtle dribbling to go to waste earlier.
They swung the ball about freely and the longer the game went on the less favourable the outlook became for Burnley despite having the wind and a 1 goal advantage. The Roker halfbacks did not just blindly loft the ball forward but passed it with care and for several minutes the Burnley citadel was under constant pressure. The siege was only relieved when Sunderland got on terms with a penalty goal. Martin led the raid and with Burnley unable to stop him he got in his centre at leisure.
It fell to Buchan only 3 yards out but before he could take advantage he was unceremoniously floored from behind. Mordue took the kick and safely piloted it into the back of the net to profound cheers from the Roker supporters. It was a deserved reward for some brilliant football. There was however nothing finer in the match than the solo effort Buchan made moments later. Man after man was left trailing as Buchan ran half the length of the field and then fired in a tremendous shot from 20 yards.
Dawson leapt across and just managed to get his fingertips to the ball to turn it over the bar. It was a magnificent dribble and a magnificent save. The corner kick was cleared as were many others but Burnley could still not shake off the attentions of Sunderland who were all over them. Holley raised expectations with a fine individual run but his shot was charged down. The ball broke to Buchan who walked past the full backs to finish with a hard low volley that struck a post. The Mordue-Buchan wing scintillated.
With Richardson ever foraging and Holley and Martin cool and resourceful Burnley backs Bamford and Taylor had a daunting task to keep them at bay. It was not surprising that the task proved beyond them and indeed the surprise was how long they held out so valiantly. Sunderland were constantly in front of Dawson's goal and when with 14 minutes to go Holley scored the best goal of the match there was no doubt as to the eventual winners. His goal was a gem.
Mordue whipped over a nicely judged centre and Holley hit a terrific drive that flew wide of Dawson who was left helpless. It was a piece of superb marksmanship and a fitting winner to an encounter that had kept the crowd pulsating with excitement throughout. After this Burnley were not allowed any scope and in the end Sunderland left the field handsome winners of a game they admitted was their hardest in the cup this season. When Burnley took the lead some of the Roker players appeared more than a little concerned at the way events were heading.
A whole hearted rally stemmed the tide and in the end they so outplayed the opposition that it seemed ridiculous to think that Burnley at one time looked like giving Sunderland a very unpleasant surprise. Sunderland's greater stamina and more skilful work were the secrets of their success. The goal deficit at the interval was due to the forwards indulging in fancy work instead of going for goal. Once they realised the error of their ways all the Wearsiders acquitted themselves with distinction.
Butler was very capable and held his nerve at the most critical times and saved many well directed shots. The full backs were shaky at the start and equally blameworthy for the 1st Burnley goal. However they got through so much excellent work afterwards they were entitled to a fair share of the praise. Thomson was at his best. He was the mastermind and Freeman will long remember the 45 minutes of impotence Thomson reduced him to in the 2nd half. Cuggy and Low were bothered initially by Burnley's nippy wingers.
Once they found their bearings however they made the task of their full backs light indeed and so neat and accurate was their passing that time and again it brought admiration from the crowd. Buchan was the outstanding forward and he got through more work and with greater success than any other player. Like the rest he was unhappy at first against a rough and ready defence but he improved as the game went on and carried out some delightful work.
Mordue was good and bad in turn often delaying centres and allowing the full backs to recover but Richardson was a good leader and a fine opportunist. The left wing was rather subdued until Holley got used to the greasy surface and then he brought out all the best in his partner and Martins speedy raids seriously troubled the Burnley defence. It was a great victory and was well deserved.
(Newcastle Daily Chronicle)
IN SEARCH OF THE DOUBLE - Sunderland AFC 1912/13
By Paul Days & Mark Metcalf
Foreword by Gary Rowell
On sale at Supporters' Association and a Love Supreme Shop as well as Waterstones.
Were the 1912/13 Sunderland team the best to ever wear the red and white stripes? This book looks at the matches and characters that shaped an immensely successful season for Sunderland AFC and its followers as well as the political, economic and social turmoil of pre-war Britain.