clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Captain's Blog: Fletcher To Rekindle Sunderland's Scotland Traditions?

Captains Blog Header
Captains Blog Header

It was probably the least unpredictable news of the whole transfer window, but it appears Sunderland have moved to solidify their interest in Wolves striker Steven Fletcher. Despite a plethora of alleged striker targets, you always got a sense that all roads for Martin O'Neill led to Fletcher this summer.

Given its prolonged nature, the various merits and concerns of move for Fletcher has been widely debated among fans for weeks, and most are now well entrenched in their respective positions. So it isn't really worth delving further into here.

So instead, I thought I'd take the opportunity to delve into a little history. Because, as tough as it may be for many modern fans to believe, Sunderland AFC's past is simply littered with important and influential Scottish figures.

So lets start at the beginning. The very beginning, in fact, because if Steven Fletcher did complete a move to Sunderland and did well, he would not be the first former Edinburgh resident to make a big footballing impact on Wearside. That honour very much lies with James Allen.

Allen was a schoolteacher from the Scottish capital and the man who all the way back in the October of 1879 decided it was about time that football was introduced to Sunderland. Football had actually found popularity north of the boarder much earlier than it had in the north east. Scotland had actually been host to the first ever international football match seven years earlier.

So Sunderland AFC, or Sunderland and District Teachers' Association Football Club as they were known then, were born at a meeting at what is now the Norfolk Hotel in the city centre. Not content with creating the football club, however, Allen also scored its first ever recorded goal, which came in a 4-0 win at the Blue House Field against Ovingham.

Not only was Sunderland's first ever goalscorer Scottish, but so was their first ever goalscoring legend. Johnny Campbell was acquired from his home-town club of Renton FC in June 1889 and soon shot to prominence as one of the very first stars of the Football League. He was the the first player to ever top the League scoring charts three times, as well as scoring Sunderland's first ever hat-trick and notching the club's first FA Cup goal as a league club.

In fact, every single person in the world today who has ever sat down and watched a game of professional football can see Johnny Campbell's lasting influence on the sport. It was a disallowed Campbell goal in an FA Cup tie between Sunderland and Notts County in 1891 that saw goal nets introduced to football.

Campbell would end his Sunderland career with a goals per game record that only two players have ever been able to better, as well as as three League Championship medals. He would be joined in the legendary 'Team of all Talents' by fellow Scots Hugh Wilson, Jimmy Millar, and Ted Doig - the latter still being generally considered to be the greatest goalkeeper in the club's history.

As Sunderland transitioned themselves to Roker Park, and as rivals Newcastle United entered the Football League, the Scottish influence would continue. Barrhead native Jimmy Leslie scored in the final game at the Newcastle Road ground, the very first goal at Roker Park, both of Sunderland's first home goals against Newcastle United, and the club's first goal of the 1900s.

Dave Halliday was the next Scottish player to fire his way into the Sunderland record books. Signed from Dundee in 1925, Halliday's record of 165 goals in 175 games make him statistically the most prolific striker to have ever donned the red and white. His 43 goals in the 1928-29 season remains a club record, as does his total of 12 hat-tricks for the club.

It isn't just Scottish founders and strikers that get in on the act in Sunderland's history, though. The first manager to ever deliver an FA Cup was Paisly-born John Cochrane. Sunderland had won the League Title six times before they tasted cup triumph - once with Cochrane at the helm - and there was a genuine feeling at the club that there was a 'curse' in place preventing them from adding the FA Cup to their trophy cabinet.

In 1973, Sunderland's only other FA Cup success, Scotsman Bobby Kerr lifted the trophy after Scotsman Ian Porterfield's winning goal, with Scotsmen Billy Hughes and Dick Malone also prominent performers.

Although Scottish football has seen a serious decline in the modern era, there is still a sprinkling of their influence to be found. Allan Johnston scored the last ever League goal at Roker Park, before being a brilliant part of the record-breaking 105 season in 1998-99.

Sadly, we don't really have time to go through all the noteable Scots to have excelled at Sunderland. The list is far too extensive. In fact, there have been more players capped by Scotland whilst at the club than by other nation - including England. Sandy McNab, Jim Baxter, Andy McCombie (who was once the subject of a world record transfer), Patsy Gallacher, George Mulhall, Charlie Thomson, Sandy McAllister, James Watson, Charlie Fleming, Jimmy Connor, Alex Hastings (who could so easily have been the captain in 1937 at Wembley), Jimmy McNab... if we told every story we'd all be here all week.

What does all this mean for the club should Steven Fletcher sign for Martin O'Neill's men? Absolutely nothing. But history suggests that having a quality Scotsman or two around tends to bode pretty well for Sunderland, so here's hoping.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report