The 1952/1953 season had offered much hope and anticipation for Sunderland fans.
Bill Murray’s side were serious contenders for the league title from October until the end of January. We occupied second place for much of this time and even topped the league at the start of the New Year.
Unfortunately, things began to unravel somewhat when we failed to beat third division Scunthorpe and Lindsey United in the FA Cup, with the game going to a replay. Whilst we successfully overcame the minnows in the replay, it came at a cost, with top striker Trevor Ford breaking his ankle.
In scenes that would not be considered acceptable today, Ford played the rest of the match with a broken ankle, and also managed to score the winner.
This was at a time before substitutes, which forced Ford’s hand somewhat. The injury kept him out for two months, costing the club a chance of silverware and resulting in us falling down the table somewhat.
This particular season was a time of change all round, as we were in a period of transition.
The final appearance of Johnny Mapson broke the last link with the trophy-winning teams of the 1930s, and Roker Park hosted its first floodlit game on the 10th of December, as 34,000 fans witnessed a 5-3 win over Dundee, with Len Shackleton scoring the first goal under the lights.
On this day in 1952, Murray’s side were in a fine run of form, as well as being in the middle of a gruelling festive schedule.
Twenty four hours after grinding out a draw at Molineux, league leaders Wolves travelled north to face their fellow title challengers at Roker Park.
Plagued by injuries, we were missing Len Shackleton, Willie Watson, Tommy Wright, Jack Stelling, Fred Hall and Harry Threadgold. Consequently, it offered a rare opportunity for Mapson and youngster Stan Anderson to play together.
Despite the injuries, the Lads put in a fine performance, winning the game 5-2.
Dickie Davis had barely gotten a look in all season, but still scored six goals - with two of them coming in the first half of this game, along with one from Billy Bingham which gave us a comfortable lead at half time.
The second half was more challenging, with Wolves flying out of the blocks.
Six minutes after the restart, Les Smith converted a penalty for the away side, but before they could snatch another, headers from Harry Kirtley and Bingham made it 5-1.
Peter Broadbent eventually pulled one back for Wolves, bringing people’s attention to his famed ability, which would be seen at the world stage during the 1958 World Cup.
It was a famous win for the Lads considering all the injuries and issues we were dealing with, and it left us third in the table, inspiring hopes that we could possibly win the league.
Ultimately, injuries were becoming too costly, as Murray was only able to name an unchanged side eleven times out of forty two games during the season.