A sunny Bank Holiday by the sea in Sunderland, there’s nothing quite like it. Back in the spring of 1952, the town was buzzing as the weather turned for the better and, with it the fortunes of the football club started to brighten just a little.
Packed buses arrived from the surrounding areas, delivering working people from across the region to the seafront amusements for the long weekend – and no visit to Roker and Seaburn would be complete without spending the afternoon watching the ‘Clown Prince’ and the rest of the Lads at the big match.
It hadn’t been the greatest season for Bill Murray’s expensively-assembled Sunderland side, who sat 15th in the table with five games remaining, and had lost their previous three home games – but the First Division fixture against struggling Huddersfield Town still attracted a decent crowd of over 34,000 away from the promenade and along to Roker Park.
They were to be treated to a very rare spectacle, indeed something that hadn't happened in 16 years – Sunderland scoring 7 (seven) goals in a game.
Sunderland had rested a number of players for a reserve team fixture as a precaution against last-minute injuries, but still fielded an unchanged line-up from that which had drawn one-all with Charlton Athletic the previous weekend.
The game started brightly, and Sunderland should have gone one up early on in the game, but a fantastic finish from Johnny McSeveney was harshly ruled out for offside. Huddersfield gave as good as they got in the opening exchanges, with the wonderfully named Ernie Boot missing four chances in the first six minutes.
McSeveney, Billy Bingham and Trevor Ford were at the centre of everything for Sunderland, ably assisted by the wing-halves George Aitken and Willie Watson, and on 26 minutes their good play was rewarded when corner from Len Shackleton, was fired into the near post laid off by McSeveney to Ford who hammered the ball home for the opener.
The lead was doubled eight minutes later. McSeveney was the scorer after Watson and Ford combined to create the opportunity for him to drive a right-footed shot into the corner of the goal.
Sunderland were not playing amazingly well, however, and our back line was shaky. When Shackleton, who at that point had failed to really influence the game, and Watson lost the ball on 41 minutes, Huddersfield’s Johnny McKenna beat Maurice Marston, crossed, and found Jim Glazzard in the centre who beat Johnny Mapson to put the Yorkshiremen right back in the game.
However, as half-time approached, Sunderland struck again, with another move from Watson and Ford creating the chance for Dickie Davis to loop the ball in to the back of the despairing Harry Mills’ net. 3-1 at the break and Argus, in the Sunderland Echo, reported that “goals ceased to matter” after half time “so complete was the rout of Huddersfield”.
The game turned from a convincing victory into a farce following a knee injury to the Huddersfield goalkeeper Mills on the hour mark, which led to him having to leave the field of play. As this was an era well before substitutes were allowed in English football, and many decades before a replacement goalie would be available on every bench, the goalscorer Glazzard took his gloves as the unfortunate ‘keeper received treatment on the side of the pitch.
This was the second time in just over four years that the Terriers had lost their goalkeeper through injury on a visit to Roker Park, the first being on Shackleton’s home debut in 1948 when Bob Hesford – father of Iain – had broken his leg in an accidental collision with Frank Bee after only two minutes; Glazzard again taking over in goal.
Whether or not Mills’ injury was caused intentionally is far from clear from the reports. The incident is variously described as Mills being “charged twice by Ford”, in the Sunderland Echo; coming from Mills tackling Ford, in the Daily Mirror; and being from when the two “collided” in the Yorkshire Observer. Maybe one of our readers knows the real answer, but no cards are recorded as having been shown by referee Mr F.B. Coultas of the fair and honest city of Hull.
Mills came back on after 10 minutes, but broke down again after attempting a goal kick, leaving the visitors with only ten men for much of the second half. Shackleton took full advantage, dancing down the left wing to cross into the middle where the ball broke into space and Davis was left with a simple finish to make it 4-1. Then, four minutes, later the star inside-forward struck twice himself, first a 35-yard screamer past the makeshift goalie before he prodded home his second and Sunderland’s sixth on 85 minutes.
An unfortunate own goal from Charlie Galloghy rounded off a torrid day for the Huddersfield defence, who were longing for the final whistle long before it blew. The match ended 7-1, and despite it being a mixed performance from the Lads, it was the first time Sunderland had scored a septuplet of goals since they beat Birmingham 7-2 to clinch the league title on 13th April 1936.
Sunderland: Mapson, Marsdon, Hedley, Watson, Hall, Aitken, Bingham, Davis, Ford, Shackleton, McSeveney
Huddersfield Town: Mills, Galloghy, Kelly, McGarray, Howe, Quested, Gunn, Boot, Glazzard, Davie, McKenna.