A legendary SAFC keeper was on duty at Roker Park on this day in 1903, even though it was five years before he signed for the Lads!
Playing in goal for Stoke (the suffix ‘City’ was not added until 1925) was the great L R Roose, whilst his counterpart at the other end was himself already a bone fide Sunderland great; Teddy Doig. A league winner with the club four times, this was to be Doig’s final season and after the campaign had started at breakneck speed with ten goals in the opening two matches and an early stint topping the table, eyes were on yet another title charge.
A blip in October looked to have scuppered those plans but victories over Small Heath and Everton in the previous two games had got things back on track, and with boss Alex Mackie able to name an unchanged team confidence was rising again. The mood increased further when Sunderland won the toss and were able to play with the wind at their backs in the first half, and they made sure they put it to good use with a series of raids on Roose’s goal.
It must be said that the future terrace favourite was not at his best on this occasion. Billy Hogg opened the scoring early on, reaching John Craggs’ centre, but the stopper slipped as he attempted to save the shot and was out of luck again when after half an hour, he fumbled the ball and enabled Harold Buckle to score his first in Sunderland colours.
The home side forced a series of corners before the break as they continued to probe, but once ends had been switched for the second half they elected to sit back. Stoke were unable to use the wind to their advantage in the same way as their opponents had done, and to try and find a way back into things they left themselves vulnerable to a breakaway should Sunderland have decided to step up.
That was the case in the final twenty minutes, and Roose’s miserable afternoon was completed when Craggs charged and bundled him and the ball over the line to make it 3-0. A heavy rainstorm then compounded matters and wrote off any hope of a late fightback, but prior to that Doig had looked a lot more solid in contrast to his opposite number and was equal to anything Horace Austerberry’s side had mustered. Sadly though, that was not the case seven days later when he shipped seven away at Derby County.
A heavy 7-2 defeat at the Baseball Ground pointed towards serious problems at the back for Sunderland. Indeed, the 49 goals they’d conceded by the end of 1903-04 was the highest total since the club had joined the Football League and was a major reason why Doig was unable to add to his medal haul before he joined Liverpool.
As for Roose, this wasn’t to be his only problematic trip to Wearside ahead of him moving to the club; a maverick, who would eventually go on to perform wonders in a Sunderland shirt, in February 1906 he was reported to have knocked out a local who’d been disparaging towards his Stoke teammates after they’d lost at Roker once more. That he subsequently managed to become a fan favourite at the same ground spoke volumes about his talent.
Saturday 21 November 1903
Football League Division One
Sunderland 3 (Hogg 4’, Buckle 32’, Craggs 73’
Sunderland: Doig; McCombie, Watson; Farquhar, Barrie, Jackson; Craggs, Bridgett, Hogg, Gemmell, Buckle.
Roker Park, attendance c. 10,000