Sunderland sold Tim Coleman to Fulham 111 years ago today, but the departure of their top scorer for the season just gone wasn’t the surprise you might think.
The forward rarely stayed at a club long anyway, and whilst his form on the pitch had been superb it is highly possible that people within the club had taken a dim view of some of his other antics.
Arriving from Everton 13 months earlier, Coleman had enjoyed the perfect start to his Roker Park career. His debut came on the opening day of the 1910-11 season, when his late header from a corner gave the Lads a 2-1 derby win over Newcastle United.
He then scored in his next three games too, as early pace setters Sunderland topped Division One with four wins from four.
Results dipped slightly after that, but the side ended the campaign in a still very respectable 3rd place whilst on an individual basis the goals continued at a steady rate.
There were braces in home victories over Bristol City and Tottenham Hotspur plus a double to win away at Liverpool, and by the end of the season, Coleman had become the first Sunderland player in three years to bag 20 league goals.
A powerful athlete, he was more than just a goalscorer. He linked up well with his teammates and had good feet, but the arrival of Charlie Buchan in March proved pivotal. The new boy took Coleman’s number 8 shirt pretty much straight away, meaning he sat out six of the last seven games having previously been an ever-present.
His final appearance for the club during the run-in summed Coleman up well – he opened the scoring to set the side on their way to a 2-0 victory over Preston North End, but that only came after a half time incident with the referee because he’d been wearing a false moustache in the opening 45 minutes.
A renowned comic and practical joker, this wasn’t the first prank Coleman is said to have played, and it wasn’t the first time he’d adopted a different identity either; although commonly known as Tim, his given name was John.
Coleman had played for England three years before moving to Wearside but more recently had been a key figure in an ongoing dispute between the FA and the Players’ Union over the maximum wage.
During that goalscoring debut against Newcastle, the side wore black armbands to signify membership of the union, a decision most likely to have been made by Coleman and one that was not expected to have gone down well in certain circles.
With his cards presumably marked from an early stage then, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Coleman was replaced and moved on.
Erroneously reported to have died in action during the First World War, he became a labourer once retired from football and actually passed away in 1940 following an accident at work. Aged 59 when he died, he had been a character throughout.
John ‘Tim’ Coleman
Kettering, 26 October 1881
Sunderland 2 (Holley 32, Coleman 86)
Newcastle United 1 (Shepherd 80)
Final SAFC appearance:
Preston North End 0
Sunderland 2 (Coleman 55, Low 70)
Football League Division One, Deepdale 15 April 1911
Total appearances/goals for SAFC: