At the ripe old age of 38-years-old Sir Stanley Matthews was still one of the biggest draws in the English game, especially as this was his age in 1953, which meant this fixture came only around four months after the famous “Matthews Final”.
For Bill Murray and his Sunderland side however, the visit of a footballing legend was the last thing on their mind as the 1953-54 season hadn’t quite started as we would have liked.
Since finishing third in Division One in 1949-50 we had settled in mid-table mediocrity for a few years and in the summer of 1953, we tried to do something about getting back to fighting for league titles. Nine signings worth around £70,000 in total gave us the title of the “Bank of England Club”, it might have been more had an audacious bid to bring Jackie Milburn to Roker been successful.
But six defeats and only two victories in the first nine meant that we were languishing at the wrong end of the table and under pressure to get points on the board.
If that wasn’t enough negatives to hit the club, the week leading up to the fixture against Blackpool had been consumed with the sensational news of Welsh international Trevor Ford asking the club to put him on the transfer list.
The local media described an “iron curtain” that dropped over the club, with no information coming out of the boardroom at Roker for two days following Ford’s request, until on the Wednesday evening it was announced that it had been refused.
With Len Shackleton taking a knock against Portsmouth, Ford would return to the side to face the Tangerines - considering the Welshman bagged a hattrick in our previous game at Roker, which was a 7-1 demolition of reigning league champions Arsenal, it suggested we would see goals against Blackpool.
Over 60,000 packed into Roker Park, with the hope of not only seeing the Lads win their third home game from the first four, but also a glimpse of Sir Stanley Matthews - as described in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette the day before the game:
It is Matthews Day at Roker Park tomorrow. Just once in a season Sunderland folk take their minds off home problems to enjoy the thrill of watching one of the greatest artists ever to grace the soccer scene. Stan Matthews, the maestro, restored to fitness, comes to town in a Blackpool side showing only one change from that which won them the FA Cup in May.
Blackpool won the toss and attacked the Roker End, with reports of gales blowing in that direction, as they looked to take an early advantage, but it would be Sunderland who struck the first blow.
Trevor Ford had been in the limelight all week and stepped it up to bag the opening goal after 25 minutes, but by half-time, Blackpool were 2-1 up through goals from Bill Perry and Jackie Mudie.
And so it stayed, until just three minutes left on the clock, and Sunderland caught a controversial break. A corner from Billy Bingham was headed down by Ray Daniel - and the Blackpool goalkeeper, George Farm, held the ball on the line but let it slip to which the referee gave the goal. Observers described the goal as “doubtful”.
It appeared, however, that we didn’t care that we’d apparently levelled in a controversial manner as we pressed to take all three points, and the Daily Mirror summed up the last moment of the game:
There was just a minute more to go. A draw stared Sunderland in the face. The 61,000 crowd began to dash for transport home. Blackpool were still smarting under the grievance of a hotly disputed equaliser two minutes before which had made the score 2-2.
The moving crowd stopped as Elliott, weaving down on the left, slipped over the ball, and Ford slammed it into the net. Sunderland had snatched victory in the last few minutes.
Sunderland had defeated the current league champions and FA Cup holders in successive games at Roker Park, which were two bright spots in what turned out to be a pretty dismal season.
Saturday 26th September, 1953
Football League Division One
Sunderland 3-2 Blackpool
[Ford 25, 90’, Daniel 87’ - Perry 31’, Mudie 44’]
Sunderland: Cowan, Hedley, Hudgell, Anderson, Daniel, Aitken, Bingham, Wright, Ford, Watson, Elliott
Blackpool: Farm, Shimwell, Garrett, Fenton, Johnston, Kelly, Matthews, Taylor, Mortensen, Mudie, Perry