Alex Hall was an integral part of one of Sunderland’s greatest-ever sides, and he was born on this day in 1908.
Coming from the village of Kirknewton in Scotland, Hall initially began his career at amateur level – playing the sport alongside his job as an engineer.
After going full time with Dunfermline Athletic in 1928 though he quickly began getting noticed, and within four months was on the move to Wearside.
After paying a fee of £750 for his services, Sunderland boss Johnny Cochrane handed Hall his debut in the final fixture of the 1928-29 season. The fixture was a dead rubber – the Lads had already been mathematically ruled out of the title race – but the intention was to give the new boy a taste of what would be expected of him in future years.
Having had that glimpse of Football League action Hall was then put in the reserves and did not return to the first team until December 1930, albeit this was still only two years after he had turned professional. Dropping straight back out of the starting XI again, this time his wait for more involvement was nowhere near as long; as well as featuring in the final five games of the campaign he was also involved in both the original tie and the replay as the Rokerites got past Exeter City in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Hall continued as an understudy to Bill Murray until his breakthrough season of 1934-35 in which he got an extended run in the side and scored his only goal for the club, the opener in a 3-0 win over Leeds United. Now being used primarily as a replacement for Harry Shaw at left-back, he then made the position his own during 1935-36 – missing only four league games as Sunderland won the title for a sixth time.
Having paid his dues and with an ability to use both feet, Hall’s determined style had seen him become an important part of Cochrane’s plans. The manager switched his fellow countryman back over to left-back just after the 1937 FA Cup run began and there he remained right through to their eventual success, Hall being one of six players to feature in every match as the club won the trophy for the first time.
A Charity Shield winner whilst at Roker Park too, after waiting so patiently for his opening and then becoming key element to their achievements it was the outbreak of World War II a decade after his Sunderland debut that saw Hall’s peak come to an end. After originally guesting for Hibernian during the conflict he took up a coaching role with the club that lasted five years and then went to work with Sliema Wanderers, the top side in Malta.
He had returned home to Kirknewton by the time he passed away in 1991, aged 82.
In the years after his death a supporters association based in Scotland was named in his honour, but for his contributions to the club Alex Hall should be remembered by every Sunderland fan no matter where they hail from.
Born: Kirknewton, 6 November 1908
Sheffield United 4 (Pickering 15, 75, Gillespie 68, Johnson 71)
Football League Division One, Bramall Lane 4 May 1929
Final SAFC appearance:
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
Football League Division One, Molineux 6 May 1939*
Alex Hall played in three further games at the start of 1939-41, but these were expunged following the decision to suspend the league and do not count towards his total appearances.
Total appearances/goals for SAFC: