On their day, by all accounts, Bob Kyle’s Sunderland were a joy to watch.
A sluggish start to the 1926-27 campaign meant they were never really in the title race, but they were still one of the most dangerous sides in the country - and 95 years ago today they put FA Cup finalists Arsenal to the sword.
The game finished with a convincing 5-1 win for Sunderland, and in truth the Gunners were lucky not to have lost by an even bigger margin.
Star striker Dave Halliday missed a series of chances in the first half that could have emphasised his side’s dominance even further, and while he still managed to grab a brace in the second half the day belonged to his teammates Bobby Marshall and Billy Ellis.
With Ellis supplying the crosses and Marshall heading them home the Lads were 2-0 up at half time. Halliday soon looked like his usual self again when he capitalised on a weak back pass to extend the lead moments after the break, and while Arsenal replied through James Shaw with 15 minutes left, it did nothing but reenergise Sunderland and prompt two further goals.
Halliday had been brought to the club two years earlier following the departure of Charlie Buchan, who was now lining up against his former club.
Buchan, who had scored the winner in his side’s FA Cup semi-final victory over Southampton a fortnight earlier, was one of the few Arsenal players to come out of the match with any credit, and it was his flick that led to Shaw’s goal.
He may have been wondering if leaving Roker Park had been the right move however, as his former club were now turning on the style.
Marshall completed a clinical hat-trick when another Ellis centre led to confusion between visiting goalkeeper Dan Lewis and his full-back Tom Parker. The pair both missed the ball, giving Marshall an easy finish, and soon after Halliday wrapped things up when the skilful Ellis once again created an opening.
It said a lot that, when he was misfiring, Halliday still managed to get a brace, while some brave goalkeeping from Paddy Bell at the other end meant that Buchan would not be joining his replacement on the scoresheet.
To be fair to the visitors, their starting XI had been hit by injury and on the hour mark they were hampered even further when Joe Hulme had to retire hurt. However, Sunderland showed no mercy against Herbert Chapman’s side, who hadn’t fared much better when the two teams had met at Highbury earlier in the season.
On that occasion, the Rokermen were 3-2 winners thanks to goals from Ellis, Halliday and Marshall, and while Arsenal must have now been sick of the sight of them, they were not the only team to have been tormented by Kyle’s forwards.
Halliday’s record is probably the most known, but Sunderland had a plethora of attacking talent and were top scorers in Division One during the campaign. Marshall was instrumental in that achievement, finishing the season with 20 goals, while his first strike for the club had come on his debut against Bradford City in 1921 when still only 17, and oddly enough in his fifth appearance he had scored in another 5-1 victory over Arsenal.
A week after that the then-teenager had got two more goals as Sunderland repeated the feat and beat Aston Villa by the same score. In 1924-25 he was the club’s top scorer and ten days after today’s featured match he scored another hat-trick, this time in a 6-2 win over Bolton Wanderers. In 1928 he left Wearside for Manchester City, where he won the FA Cup and, after converting into a defender, the league title too.
Saturday 9 April 1927
Football League Division One
Sunderland 5 (Marshall 9, 23, 80 Halliday 48, 83)
Arsenal 1 (Shaw 75)
Sunderland: Bell; Oakley, England; Clunas, Parker, Andrews; Wilks, Marshall, Halliday, Ramsay, Ellis.
Roker Park, attendance 23, 168