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On This Day (22 September 1888): The Canadian touring side beat Sunderland 3-0!

A side of touring Canadians arrived on Wearside hoping to make an impression on the watching eyes of the public - and they gave Sunderland a footballing lesson that they hadn’t had yet that season!

Having started life as a group of school teachers playing for fun in the early days, Sunderland’s football identity had become a source of much debate and controversy by the time the late 1880s came around.

Although they had secured their first victory in the FA Cup - which was known as the ‘English Cup’ in 1887 - against Morpeth Harriers, trouble was only around the corner for founder James Allan and the other hierarchy of the club.

An acrimonious split in 1888 saw Allan resign his position of treasurer, and he set up a rival club - Sunderland Albion, who existed until 1892 and were considered to be a significant rival to Sunderland AFC.

Towards the end of the 1880s, the club had moved from a group of amateur enthusiasts to develop into an organisation that was increasingly professional.

The issues of becoming professional are said to be linked to the reason that Allan departed Sunderland to form the aforementioned Sunderland Albion, as they were expelled from the FA Cup for playing player George Monaghan, who did not live in the area for more than two years. It was thought that Monaghan was bought as a professional, which went against the rules of football at that time.

The 1888-89 season did however show how far the club had come. The season started on the 1st of September 1888 with a visit from a powerful Blackburn Rovers outfit, in what turned out to be a scintilating game in which they were victorious. Sunderland won 4-3, which was a very significant result considering the outcomes of previous meetings with clubs of a similar stature.

General Views of UK Sporting Venues Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Only a few years later, on this day, the city was blessed with the presence of a touring Candian football side who were taking on teams around the British Isles. The Canadians had already played games in Ireland and Scotland and had recorded five wins, three draws and two defeats in the games they had played thus far.

After three weeks, they arrived in Sunderland the day before their game and stayed in the Grand on Bridge Street. It was a significant occasion for the club and its directors as Sunderland were the first English team chosen - highlighting the effort that the directors had put into boosting the profile of the club.

For the game itself, the weather was said to be fantastic - 10,000 fans turned up at Newcastle Road to see the first team from outside the British Isles take on Sunderland.

For a warm-up, the Sunderland players arrived on the pitch first, where they had some shooting practice. Interest was high in this game and the Canadians took the field in a dark blue “costume” with the white lettering “the dominion” emblazoned on their shirts, much to the joy of the home crowd.

As the game began, It was soon evident that the visitors were a cut above anything Sunderland had so far faced this season, and even though we were defeated 0-3 it was a great experience for Wearside and the city itself - we were on the map, and becoming increasingly significant in the world of football in England.


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