Yesterday’s game at Wycombe Wanderers was probably a good one for the neutrals watching on Sky Sports. With multiple camera angles, instant replays and highlights being shared on social media within seconds the coverage available to football fans now is lightyears ahead of what used to be on offer even in relatively recent times. Go further back to over a century ago however and you’d be lucky just to see a photograph of the action, never mind footage.
One source of material was the famed Lancashire-based film company Mitchell & Kenyon, who amassed a huge collection of firsthand news and sports reels during the Edwardian era. In 1904 they were at Roker Park to record manager Alex Mackie’s men, providing a fascinating look at how the game was played at the time.
Understandably given its age, it is quite hard to fully grasp what is happening in the stuttering film. Taken from the byline and showing a close-up view of the action nearest the camera, some things can still be made out such as the players’ numberless shirts and the full suit being worn by the referee, who seemed quite happy to allow one or two robust challenges.
It is no surprise that Mitchell & Kenyon came to Wearside. Football League Champions in 1901-02 and just a point off the title the following season, Sunderland were one of the biggest clubs in football, and whilst form had bit a little iffy during 1903-04 they were still capable of producing plenty of goals.
That was the case again on this particular date, when two early strikes from Jimmy Gemmell gave them the lead over local rivals Middlesbrough before Billy Hogg made it 3-0 midway through the second half. Although he sounds more like a native of north Sunderland, James Suddick was Middlesbrough born and offered his hometown club some solace with a late consolation goal.
Forwards Gemmell and Hogg had formed a productive partnership. Joint top scorers for Sunderland when they won the league two years earlier, Gemmell’s guile and Hogg’s speed worked well together. They had both been on the scoresheet against Boro earlier in the season too, when the Lads were victorious on Teesside in Ayresome Park’s inaugural fixture. That one finished 3-2 with Whitey Robinson scoring the winning goal, although he had played his last game for the club by the film crew had landed for today’s anniversary match.
You can view the footage of the game via the link below (from SunderlandAFCTV)
Saturday 9 January 1904
Football League Division One
Sunderland 3 (Gemmell 2,7, Hogg 65)
Crystal Palace 1 (Suddick 87)
Sunderland: Doig; McCombie, Barrie, Jackson, Watson; Craggs, Farquhar, Bridgett, Buckle; Hogg, Gemmell.
Roker Park, attendance c. 14,000