The return of league football to Roker Park in the aftermath of World War Two brought great excitement to the city, along with an abundance of new faces that fans wouldn’t have been very familiar with.
Despite losing talisman Raich Carter to Derby, we seemed to be in a healthy position with new additions such as Willie Watson, who signed from Huddersfield for £8,000. This had captured the attention of a fanbase who were simply happy to have some normality back in their lives.
Watson was an interesting signing.
He was an all-round talented sportsman who excelled in cricket, where he represented his country twenty three times. In addition to his cricketing exploits, Watson also represented his country four times in football.
The ‘cultured’ Watson was pivotal to the new Sunderland as we made a fantastic start to the 1946/1947 season.
By the time this fixture against Everton came around in mid-October, we’d only been defeated twice in our opening nine games, with Cliff Whitelum in impressive scoring form.
We came into this game on the back of a bruising defeat 4-1 to Portsmouth and according to reports, Everton were the perfect opponents due to their ineptitude in front of goal.
Everton were up north searching for league points, and their task was no easy one.
It could be improved, however, if the forwards will shoot and that is why Livingstone was brought in at centre forward.
We dominated proceedings early on, with the aforementioned Watson integral to all that was good about our play, and only a lack of cutting edge prevented us from getting on the scoresheet.
Sunderland opened on a lively note and they might easily have scored in the first minute, for Duns was twice through, but over-anxiety on the part of the winger caused him to err in his judgement.
Then Watson came along with a great shot from just outside the penalty area, and Burnett made a really crucial save.
Whilst Watson continued to be ‘outstanding’, the game became scrappy and niggly, which led to Everton player Archie Livingstone having to return to the pitch with a handkerchief in order to clear away the excessive blood.
Some half chances from Everton kept goalkeeper Johnny Mapson honest but we were the more threatening of the two sides and two quick fire goals near the end of the first half gave us a 2-0 lead at the break.
Suddenly, the ball came out of the Everton goal area and landed at the feet of Lloyd and without hesitation, he let fly and his swerving shot landed safely in the net. I fear the Everton goalkeeper must have been unsighted, for he made no move whatsoever to save.
Whitelum came up at hot pace and without allowing the ball to touch the ground, he volleyed it into the net to score Sunderland’s second goal.
Burnett seemed to get his hands to the ball, but such was its power that he could not keep it out of the net.
Everton started the second half in much better fashion.
They displayed ‘greater speed and understanding’, which led to them scoring within four minutes of the restart, giving them their first goal in almost three hundred minutes of football.
The goal was very similar to that scored by Whitelum, for Eglington snapped up Mcllhatton’s pass and crashed it like lightning into the net.
The comeback didn’t last too long as Everton’s first half weaknesses returned, and by the fifty fifth minute, we had our third goal through Len Duns, who finished off from a brilliant ground pass.
As the game wore on, the report suggests the match was ‘between the Roker forwards and the Everton goalkeeper’ which hinted at the dominance we maintained over the visitors.
Eddie Burbanks added another and as the game reached its climax, the feeling was that the Toffees were delighted to only concede four.
It was a positive result for the Lads, who were showing that they were ready to mix it with the big boys of the league. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of this victory, the club experienced a mini slide down the league before settling around mid table.