Sunderland capped the final few games of the 1946-47 season in a rich vein of form. With only a couple of games to go, Bill Murray’s men secured their final away win of the season with a 1-2 victory at Grimsby Town.
In many ways, this league season meant more than just football or results. For people across the United Kingdom and further afield, it was a return to normality. This was the first post-war season and in turn, the first time league football returned to Roker Park since the thirties.
This was a new Sunderland team as naturally, due to the hostilities of the previous few years, there were many changes to the side. The most glaringly obvious loss was Raich Carter, who had moved on to Derby County leaving Sunderland bereft of their best player.
However, as it is in football today, one man’s departure is another's opportunity. Carter’s leaving, along with the natural impact the war had ensured Sunderland fans were seeing a lot of new players.
This included the signings of Willie Watson - an English international in football and cricket, former Sheffield Wednesday forward Jackie Robinson, and Arthur Hudgell, a fullback from Crystal Palace, for a combined total of close to twenty thousand pounds.
This season for Sunderland started strongly. With Cliff Whitelum starring prominently, we found ourselves in the top two along with Manchester United. After defeating Derby County and Huddersfield, along with a draw against Arsenal, there was an air of positivity surrounding the team.
Despite the performances of the aforementioned Robinson, Sunderland’s form began to decline and then plateau, leaving them dwindling into mid-table mediocrity. December was especially harsh, with four defeats on the spin against Bolton, Derby, and Wolves twice. This left them in 14th place as they entered the new year.
By the time, the team played Grimsby on this day in early May, the form had picked up somewhat. After a win against Bolton again, and a draw with Charlton, Sunderland came into this game in 10th place.
Their upturn in fortunes by mid-May was in no small part to the scoring prowess of Robinson and his form in the second half of the season. He only arrived in October from Wednesday but had managed to score 16 goals by the time of this game. His 17th came in this game.
Robinson would turn out to be an extremely useful player for the club. In his three seasons at Sunderland, he would go on to score 32 goals in 82 league games before departing for Lincoln as a coach.
The other goal scored in this victory over Grimsby came from Eddie Burbanks. Burbanks was a loyal servant to the club having begun playing there in 1935. A left-winger, Burbanks was known for his tricky ability and vital goalscoring contributions.
One of the essential contributions was the winner in this game. Burbanks got the winner to ensure Sunderland secured their final away win of the season. Considering they had suffered seven defeats at home all season, it was imperative that their away form kept them in a decent position in the table, especially against teams like Grimsby who were struggling.
This win ensured they were in with a great opportunity of finishing in the top ten. With a win against Bradford in the final game two weeks later, they would go one better and finish ninth.