Sunderland 11-1 Fairfield. Newcastle 1-9 Sunderland.
Two results that as a Sunderland supporter you grow up knowing about.
Granted, they’re a good few years ago now, and it’s a shame in some respects we’ve not broken those ‘record results’ in the intervening decades – centuries – but they’re part of the fabric of the club – and 127 years ago today, we enjoyed our biggest ever victory, over Fairfield in the FA Cup.
Fairfield were a Lancashire based club, who tried unsuccessfully on a few occasions to win enough votes to gain admission to the Football League – they dissolved only two years after this game.
This First Round proper game was billed as ‘things getting serious in the “fight for the old tin pot”’, as teams prepared to meet each other at Newcastle Road.
The tie, which incidentally took place only a few weeks after the game against Aston Villa, captured by the famous Hemy painting, was expected to be a forgone conclusion for Sunderland, ‘a dead snip’ the papers called it, as a team that ‘few northerners had even heard of the existence’ of headed to County Durham to take on the reigning League champions.
There had been speculation Fairfield would ‘scratch’ the tie, given the vast gulf in class, but spurred on by the prospect of half of the gate money they decided to play the game rather than hand Sunderland a bye.
At full time, they were perhaps wishing they’d spent the afternoon with their feet up, because they were on the end of an 11-1 thumping, and ‘a beggarly’ 2000 turned up to see the game.
In the opening stages of the game, however, the crowd grew anxious at Sunderland’s failure to score, missing chance after chance ‘[Sunderland] had gone in for fun, rather than football before’ said the match report). That changed, however, until Jimmy Millar put the lads ahead after 20 minutes.
Miller scored a second shortly after, while Jimmy Hannah notched a third.
Fairfield had had their chances on the break, with Ned Doig pulling off some decent saves, while the first half was punctuated by ‘a piece of pantomime’.
Hannah first pushed Clarke in a miniature lake, and Clarke retaliated by sending him spinning in the mud, the onlookers roaring at the smart manner in which the Fairfield centre retaliated at the artful ‘Jimmy’.
Indeed, it seems as if the playing surface may have resembled our game at Fratton Park earlier this season – after the third goal had been scored Sunderland thought they’d had a fourth, but the ball ‘fell wide in a pond’.
James Gillespie added a fourth on 37...
Thereupon, the spectators began to cry that it was a shame to show up a team in the way that Sunderland were showing up Fairfield. One of the visitors, Elson, lost his temper and, seizing Gillespie, hurled him to the ground.
A foul was at once granted, and it proved fatal to Fairfield.
Miller ‘launched the leather home’ for his third of the game and Jack Miller scrambled in, and at half time the score was 6-0 to the home team.
The ‘sticky state of the ground’ had caused half time speculation that the game may not be a cup tie, but the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette match reporter sought out the referee at half time, and was told there had been no protests from either side and the game, as a cup tie, would continue.
Johnny Campbell and Andy McCreadie swapped positions, the legendary forward – who’d not troubled the scoresheet – dropping back into defence and the Scottish centre half playing further forward – and it was McCreadie who scored the game’s seventh goal, ‘from his toe it went slap-bang between the timbers’.
The crowd were hilarious. Sure never has the air at Newcastle Road rung with such shouts of laughter as greeted each manoeuvre by the Wearsiders. Their play was superb; they waltzed around the Redshirts, wheeled them here and there with consummate ease, let them get yards ahead and then overwhelmed them at pleasure.
Miller tapped in for eight, before Clark scored for Fairfield, a powerful strike that ‘rebounded from the net into play’.
Sunderland responded immediately, with Hannah scoring the ninth, and then the tenth – the crowd willing the team on to make the score ‘even’, and with almost the last kick Miller scored the 11th and final goal for Sunderland.
The game had, as expected, been a thoroughly one-sided affair, with the gulf in class ‘vastly more than the ten goal difference between the teams.’
Sunderland have probably never had an easier thing since they were a club of any note.
Unfortunately for Fairfield, the low crowd meant the overall takings for the game were just £67m the smallest amount ever taken at this point for a Cup Tie at Sunderland.
Maybe, in hindsight, they wished they’d forfeited the game after all.
For Sunderland, however, the game kept a great run at home going, which after this game stood at P14, W12, D2, F60 A15 for the season.
Sunderland were eventually knocked out of the FA Cup by Aston Villa in the semi final at Ewood Park, but did claim the league title – finishing 5 points ahead of second placed Everton.