Season 1957/58 was nothing short of disastrous for Sunderland.
Despite an encouraging 2-2 draw against a Man Utd team still reeling from the Munich Air disaster, at Old Trafford on Good Friday, there was no win bonus for the Sunderland team as they fell to a heavy defeat against Birmingham City at Roker Park on the 5th of April 1958.
4-0 down at half-time, the points were City’s long before Don Revie scored his 11th goal of the season in the second half.
This game was the seventh time that season that the opposition had scored four or more against us.
With problems conceding and scoring, we went down on goal average at the end of a season where the spectre of the illegal payment scandal hung over the club. Newcastle and Portsmouth shared the same thirty-two points, ending an unbroken run since 1890 in the first division. This would be the first of eleven relegations to present day.
Despite some appalling weather and tarpaulins on the pitch to try and protect the goal areas, more than 34,000 fans turned up more in hope than expectation that Easter Saturday.
Manager Brown was forced into a team change, as Colin Grainger - England international and delightfully nicknamed “the Singing Winger” - succumbed to a toe injury from the previous day’s game. He was replaced by John “Ralphie” Goodchild, a youth product who had made a goalscoring debut earlier that season.
With the pitch cutting up badly from the start and Sunderland’s defence all at sea, City scored within 3 minutes. 14 minutes into the game we were 4-0 down and had hardly had a touch.
Then, to make matters worse, half back Anderson was stretchered from the pitch on 29 minutes. With substitutes still 7 years away, Sunderland had to continue with ten men (Anderson did re-emerge for the second half but was clearly struggling with his injury).
This incident did seem to galvanise the crowd though, and the team responded to their urgings with a period of pressure as “Rhino” Kitchenbrand and Goodchild both missed good opportunities.
The second half resumed with the Lads trying to reduce the arrears and the crowd getting right behind the team.
Unfortunately, it was City who scored the fifth goal on 51 minutes, and that knocked the stuffing right out of any Sunderland fight-back.
In a rare attack, Don Revie did manage a good solo run and twenty-five-yard shot to score the best goal of the match. The scoring however was finished by City on 87 minutes as Sunderland suffered their sixth home defeat of the season.
To their credit, 51,328 fans turned up at Roker two days later on Easter Monday to support their beleaguered team, as well as show respect to Man Utd as they attempted their recovery from the air disaster that had decimated their talented squad.
By the end of that game, the first division trap door was wide open!
Sunderland 1 Birmingham City 6
SAFC: Fraser - Hedley - Elliott - Anderson - Aitken - Pearce – Revie (1) - Kitchenbrand - O’Neil - Fogarty
Brum: Schofield – Green – Hall – Neal – Smith – Larkin - Orritt (2) - Astall (1) - Hooper (1) - Murphy (1) Brown (1).