For Sunderland, the 1928/1929 season was all about one man and his extraordinary goalscoring exploits.
Dave Halliday’s total of forty three strikes set the record for the most in a season by a Sunderland player and also made ‘Hotshot’ the most formidable goalscorer in the country at the time.
He was almost single-handedly keeping the team in the higher echelons of the league and enabling us to flirt with the idea of Division One glory.
On this day in 1928, Sunderland were up against Sheffield United at Roker Park. At the time, we were sitting in fifth place, with Halliday having already racked up twenty goals for the season.
According to the Leicester Evening Gazette, the match was played in ‘fine weather before ten thousand spectators’ who’d turned up to get their pre-Christmas football fix. In contrast, the Shields Gazette described the weather as ‘dull’.
Sunderland made a late change, with William Clunas replaced by Charlie Parker in the starting eleven, and according to the newspapers, the team was as follows:
McInroy, Oakley, England; Parker, Allan, Andrews; Robinson, McKay, Halliday; McInally, McLean.
McInally lost the toss for Sunderland and we were forced to play into the wind during the first half. This set the tempo in the early stages, as the visitors seemed to be making all the inroads.
United took the lead after England toppled Oxley in the Sunderland area, and from the resulting spot kick, the visitors duly scored.
As the half unfolded, the Blades continued to pile on the pressure and according to one of the match reports, we were all over the place.
Sunderland were kept on the defensive for quite a while, and once or twice found it necessary to pack their goal line to avoid conceding again.
Thankfully, it was Halliday who brought us level with a penalty.
There was slight anxiety around Roker Park as the ball struck the crossbar but thankfully landed on the right side of the line. He kicked the ball close up again to ensure there were no questions asked, despite protestations from the away side.
Tom Phillipson put United ahead again as they continued to attack, only for Halliday to respond as ‘Sunderland continued to maintain their improvement’.
It was frantic stuff, as all of this happened inside the first twenty minutes, but around the midway point of the first half, there was a fifth goal as Halliday gave the Lads the lead.
McKay put through to Halliday and that player sent in a low shot which completely beat Wharton, giving the Wearsiders the lead with the game little over twenty minutes old.
After thirty three minutes, the prolific striker had his hat trick.
George Robinson made amends to the ‘disgusted’ home fans for missing an open goal, when he played a well-timed central pass to the Scot, who made no mistake. That resulted in a half-time score of 4-2, after a crazy half of football.
It appeared that Sheffield United’s attacking intent worked in our favour, but in the second half, they grabbed two goals through Fred Tunstall and Harry Johnson, earning themselves a draw and leaving us fifth in the table.
This game epitomised the pivotal role that Halliday played in the Sunderland team.
His forty three goals in 1928/1929 saw him succeed Everton icon Bill ’Dixie’ Dean as the leading scorer in England’s top division.
In addition, he’s the most recent of only two players to have been outright top scorer in the top division of Scotland (thirty eight goals for Dundee in 1923/1924) and England (forty three Sunderland goals in 1928/1929)- an extraordinary stat that tells us a lot about his ability.
During this season, thirty of Halliday’s goals came at Roker Park, where our tally of sixty seven was the joint highest in the league.