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Today - the 13th of November - marks the anniversary of Sunderland’s first ever game!

Mark Metcalf - Sunderland season ticket holder and author of, amongst others, four books on the club, including the authorised biography of Charlie Hurley - discusses the club’s first ever game.  

Today, the 13th of November, marks the 137th anniversary of Sunderland’s first game.

News that a football club had been formed by the teachers of Sunderland District Association appeared in the Sunderland Daily Echo on 27th of September 1880. This followed a teachers meeting at Rectory Park school two days earlier on Saturday 25th of September 1880.

The report on 27th of September 1880 is the first time any report appears of a football club in Sunderland being formed.

The news of a new club was first reported by the Newcastle Daily Journal on Saturday 16th of October 1880 - games were to be played at The Blue House Field in Hendon, with the rent for the ground costing £10 a year.

The name of the ground made it natural that the new side chose blue as the colour of its shirts.

On Monday 11th of October 1880, the Sunderland Daily Echo reported that Sunderland and District Teachers Football Club, which would become Sunderland AFC, had played their first practice two days earlier when teams selected by the captain Mr Singleton, a local Councillor, and vice captain Mr Allan had resulted in the latter winning 5-0.

On the 8th of November 1880, the draw for the first round of the inaugural Northumberland and Durham Football Association Challenge Cup competition was made.

Ferryhill were drawn to play Darlington Grammar School, but when the latter then withdrew, it effectively left Ferryhill with a free Saturday that following weekend.

Ferryhill, a club which folded a season or two later because of a lack of interest, reacted quickly to arrange a game against Sunderland AFC on Saturday 13th of November 1880.

This was Sunderland’s very first ‘competitive’ football match.

It lasted one hour and twenty minutes, with each ‘half’ lasting forty minutes. The only goal of the game was scored after 40 minutes and gave the away side a narrow victory. The scorer is not recorded.

The Sunderland starting eleven on that historic occasion was as follows: Singleton, Taylor and Shirlaw as backs, J Gibbons and W Andersen as the two half backs, and a six man forward line of EG Watson, J Barron, P Dove, F Woodward, Walter Chappell and Jimmy Allan.

Sunderland played their second match the following weekend and recorded their first victory when they beat Ovingham FC 4-0 at The Blue House Field. The scorers were Elliott, Watson and two by James Allan. Half back Elliott has the honour of being the first Sunderland player to score a goal for the club, doing so not long after half time.

On Saturday 11th of December, Sunderland played their first ever Cup tie when competing in the Northumberland and Durham Challenge Cup Second Round - they drew 2-2 at home to Burnopfield FC, before winning the replay 2-0.

Sunderland crashed out of the cup in the semi final, but three seasons later the club won their first trophy when they beat Darlington in the final of the same competition.


Readers interested in the early history of Sunderland AFC should consider buying the book ‘FOUNDING FATHERS THE MEN WHO MADE SUNDERLAND AFC: volume 1’ from ryehillfootball.co.uk - you can also buy a vintage art print of the first game here.