Sunderland had missed out on the title by just two points in 1949-50, with Portsmouth claiming the league title ahead of Wolves on goal average.
Sunderland, a point behind, ultimately suffered from their lack of draws away from home – 10 defeats on the road and just four draws came back to haunt the team; in the days of two points for a win, it seems incredible that we weren't a little more pragmatic on the road.
The team began 1950-51, however, with a severe hangover – only one win in the first six fixtures saw the lads struggling at the wrong end of the table. And, while the team was capable of scoring a raft of goals when in the mood, at the back we could give them away for fun, too.
A remarkable 6-5 defeat to Derby County in the last game had seen the Lads fall to 19th position, and ahead of Liverpool’s visit to Roker Park, manager Bill Murray decided that scouting potential new recruits was more important than overseeing his charges in action.
Murray, together with director Mr Martin, were ‘prospecting in Scotland’, while at least another two members of the club’s management were away from Sunderland watching prospective signings.
It was a shame they were absent – because they missed the team’s best performance of the season against a Liverpool team featuring Hetton’s favourite son, Bob Paisley, who’d lifted the FA Amateur Cup at Roker Park for Bishop Auckland 11 years earlier.
Also absent were the injured Ivor Broadis, Jack Stelling, Tommy Reynolds and Len Shackleton, as an unchanged line-up from the team that took on Derby took to the Roker Park pitch for the last fixture before a Christmas Day fixture against Manchester United in two days’ time.
Sunderland started the game brightly and went ahead after only two minutes. Ford and Kirtley linked up well with winger Tommy Wright, who crossed the ball into England international striker Willie Watson,
Watson hesitated – the crowd thought he’d missed the opportunity to score – but he finally put the lads one up with a cross-shot past keeper Crossley.
The lead didn’t last for long – Balmer scored at the second attempt after his initial effort hit Mapson’s legs.
It was a tough game against a good side, but Sunderland always looked more of a threat. Jack Hedley for Sunderland had an excellent game against Liverpool dangerman Billy Liddell, while the Reds defender Bill Jones helped keep Trevor Ford quiet – the Welshman forced out to the wings to find the ball.
Sunderland’s wing halves – Tommy McLain and Arthur Wright – proved a constant threat too, while winger Tommy Wright ‘showed some of his old dash’.
An entertaining game played out and with 20 minutes remaining, Sunderland took the lead – Ford’s clever corner setting up Davis perfectly to fire a low shot home past the keeper.
After a run of one win in 11, the result was a shot in the arm for Sunderland – and set the lads up for a Christmas Day clash against high-flying Manchester United.
Sunderland 2-1 Liverpool
Watson 2, Davis 70; Balmer 12
Roker Park, 30,150
Sunderland: Mapson, Hedley, Hudgell, McLain, Walsh, A Wright, T Wright, Kirtley, Ford, Davis, Watson.
Liverpool: Crossley, Lambert, Spicer, Heydon, Jones, Paisley, Payne, Taylor, Done, Balmer, Liddell.