Despite only just finishing a gruelling, but ultimately successful promotion push in 1975/76, Sunderland were not done yet.
The club were scheduled to undertake a mammoth summer tour on the other side of the world, and instead of putting their feet up, the players were put through their paces Down Under, against sides of varying ability.
After kicking off with two matches against the reigning Pacific Games champions Tahiti, the party moved on to Auckland, and on this day, Sunderland took on what was described as a ‘New Zealand XI’.
Selected by Leicestershire-born Barrie Truman, who was manager of the full national side, those involved were not given a cap but the side did include several senior players.
Tony Sibley, Ian Park, Brian Turner, Dave Taylor and Adrian Elrick, who came on as a substitute, were all regular representatives of the All Whites, and several other fringe members of their squad also got a run out.
Sunderland also named a strong side, and despite tour captain Bob Moncur telling Len Hetherington of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle that the floodlights were not of the standard used in England, it was still clear to those watching in the stands that there was a gulf in class.
The crowd was swelled by a large number of North East expats, who saw their side coast to a comfortable enough victory, and it was Moncur himself that netted the opener shortly before half-time.
The Scot headed home from a corner, and scored a second in the closing stages, following a knock on from Pop Robson. Moncur claimed, however, that the goal of the game came from Roy Greenwood, who struck a fierce left foot shot past Praven Jeram after being teed up by Billy Hughes.
The goalkeeper had moved to New Zealand as a child, having been born in India, and was a talented cricketer growing up, but he had no chance with the goal.
Sunderland were only in Auckland for two full days before moving onto Brisbane in Australia, although chairman Keith Collings had to leave the tour to return to England following the death of his father, club President Syd Collings.
The tour was tinged with further sadness following the next match, when in the minutes following a 6-0 win over Queensland, the referee, Jack Williams, collapsed and died. There was further tragedy three years later, when the Newmarket Park stadium that had hosted Sunderland’s fixture with New Zealand was destroyed by a landslide.
The Australian leg of the tour saw 1930s stalwart Alex Hastings, a league winner during his time at Roker Park, and now a senior figure within the South Australian Soccer Federation- having emigrated a decade earlier- act as a liaison officer for the club.
Another former Sunderland player, Jimmy Shoulder, oversaw the Australia XI sides that faced the Lads in Sydney and Melbourne, and one-time youth player Alan Sproates, who originally came from Hetton-le-Hole, lined up against them for a South Australia team that lost 4-0.
Arguably the highlight of the trip was the 5-0 win over Tasmania, during which Mel Holden scored all five goals.
Culminating with a visit to Singapore in early June, a total of ten games were played in all, and whilst Sunderland were unbeaten on their travels, not everybody was happy.
There were suggestions from some that the tour amounted to little more than a glorified booze-up, and at least one senior player has since expressed his feeling that what the squad really needed at that point was a proper rest.
Certainly, the following season saw the team get off to a very sluggish start, and given that they were playing 11,000 miles from home on this day in 1976, the return to Division One probably seemed further away than it actually was.
Friday 14 May 1976
New Zealand XI 0
Sunderland 3 (Moncur 41, 85, Greenwood 45)
Sunderland: Montgomery; Malone, Moncur, Clarke (Kerr), Bolton; Longhorn, Train, Robson, Greenwood; Rowell, Hughes. Unused: Ashurst, Henderson, Holden.
Newmarket Park, Auckland.
Attendance c. 12,000.