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History of Sunderland v Fulham; South Shields match-fixing, Hungarian football & a title pursuit

Sunderland and Fulham have faced each other 62 times in their history. Mark Metcalf scours into past games between the two and presents some of the most incredible tales having taken place.

Sunderland v Fulham
Current boss Chris Coleman was Fulham manager on that famous postponed game. Sunderland went on to win the Sunderland went on to win the replay of the game 2-1, our only home victory of the season - on the last day.
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

With Sunderland having only played at the time in the First Division, it was not until the 1934/35 season that the Wearsiders faced the Cottagers in a competitive match when Second Division Fulham travelled north for a third round FA Cup tie at Roker Park.

The away side was managed by Jimmy Hogan, who is often credited with the revolution in European football that saw Hungary thrash England 6–3 at Wembley in 1953. After the match, Sándor Barcs, the Hungarian Football Federation President said, "Jimmy Hogan taught us everything we know about football.“

Sunderland born Ernie Taylor, then playing for Blackpool, was one of the England players that fateful day against the Magyars. It proved to be the inside forward’s only cap. Taylor later played for his hometown. Another Sunderland born inside forward from an earlier era who also played, between 1919 and 1921, for his home side was Barney Travers.

Travers, a prisoner-of-war in World War One, ended his career in disgrace after he joined Fulham from Sunderland for a fee of £3,000 in February 1921.

Travers was suspended for life by the Football Association in April 1922 for offering an alleged £20 bribe to throw the South Shields v Fulham fixture at the Horsley Hill Stadium in March 1921, although the attempted bribery was uncovered before damage was done.

Barney Travers

Travers admitted he had travelled to the North East three days before the game but that was not unusual given that he had so many friends there.

Also, although he was charged on his own, it was hard to see how any match could be fixed by just one person. The match was crucial in that both Fulham and South Shields were challenging for promotion to Division One. South Shields won 1 v 0 but subsequently failed to gain promotion.

The FA held the enquiry in secret, ensuring justice would not be met in public. Travers career was forcibly ended. He later journeyed to Spain and subsequently travelled to Austria where he became Vienna player-manager in May 1922. He was to later return to Sunderland where he had a fruit and veg stall in the town.

Aged 50, Travers was later pardoned by the FA in 1945, but no announcement was ever made about the involvement of other players or of Fulham FC.

The first meeting between the two sides - on 12 January 1935 - was won 3-2 by Sunderland with all the home goals being scored by Bobby Gurney, who in the next round also scored in what is possibly the greatest game yet seen at Goodison Park, when Sunderland were knocked out of the FA cup by six goals to four after extra time.

It was not until the 1949-50 season that Sunderland and newly promoted Fulham faced each other on equal footing in Division One. It was a season which Sunderland began badly but when they beat the Whites 2-0 at Roker Park on 22 October 1949 the side managed by Bill Murray rose to ninth in the table.

The Wearsiders were to maintain their progress over the following months and as such when they travelled to Craven Cottage for an Easter Friday fixture they were in with a real chance of winning the League title again.

At this time Sunderland was tied with Arsenal and Aston Villa as the most successful League club ever with six titles each. The Roker Park club had had other opportunities to add to the total and might have won the crown in 1900-01 and 1902-03 in particular and possibly also in 1922-23.

Sunderland took their London opponents apart with goals from Tommy Reynolds, Len Duns - the club’s oldest servant and who was making his first start of the season - and Tommy Wright. The victory ensured the double over Fulham for the season. There was general relief all round as a bad injury in the previous day’s victory at home to Middlesbrough to top scorer Dickie Davis, who was to finish as Division One leading scorer in the season with 25 goals, was feared by many Sunderland fans to have dealt a fateful blow to their sides title chances.

Fulham v Sunderland - FA Cup Fourth Round Replay
The last time the sides met, a 3-1 Sunderland victory at Craven Cottage.
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Sunderland rose to the top of the table but the loss of Davis did prove crucial. Two days later Sunderland lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough. A crucial 2-1 home defeat to relegation bound Manchester City was followed by a 3-1 defeat at Huddersfield Town.

The Wearsiders beat Everton 4-2 at Roker Park before, on the final day of the season, a returning Davis notched two as Chelsea lost 4-1 at Roker Park. Sunderland finished third in the final table, just one point behind second-placed Wolves and title winners Portsmouth. It was a disappointing end to a season but that final placing remains Sunderland’s highest since the last time the club won the title in 1935-36.

A vintage, high-quality art print of Barney Travers can be bought from here.