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Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland

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On This Day (13 April 1936): Sunderland clinch league title in style at St Andrews!

It was our sixth league title, and despite us not winning one since, only five clubs have ever surpassed that record.

Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

These were heady times for Sunderland Association Football Club. Winning titles was simply what we did in the early years of the century.

No team wearing stripes has won the league since us, and at the time of writing, only five clubs can claim to this day to have been champions of England more times than Sunderland.

This particular season had actually begun with a defeat to Arsenal, reigning champions for the previous three years. From that point onwards, however, Sunderland brought more consistency to their game, though they were still off the top after two months due to the extraordinary form of Huddersfield Town.

Consistency eventually told, and with very few defeats and a significant numbers of goals scored, Sunderland were only ever off the top spot once from the end of October - with the post-Christmas 5-4 win against Arsenal noted as one of the best games ever played at Roker Park.

On this day (which was Easter Monday) in 1936, Sunderland clinched their most recent Division One (as it was called then) title - and they did it in style. The Lads hammered Birmingham 7-2, with top marksman Bobby Gurney scoring four times.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

This was Sunderland’s third game in four days - their second against Birmingham City. The lads had won the reverse encounter four days previous with a 2-1 win, thanks to a Patsy Gallacher double.

This was followed by a disappointing defeat to Bolton Wanderers away from home. Raich Carter gave the away side an early lead, but it appears Sunderland lost the midfield battle and Bolton showed efficiency by scoring their only two chances.

As for this game itself, The Lads set the tone early on with a goal in the 13th minute displaying the attacking prowess that had put them in this lofty position of almost scoring 100 goals in a league season.

Bobby Gurney put his side ahead on 13 minutes and it was Sunderland’s 99th League goal in the season. Only once previously - in 1892-93 - had 100 goals been scored in a season. Birmingham equalised through Joe Loughran on 31 minutes but five minutes later Carter smashed home the ball to make it 100 goals!

Reports from this match have suggested that the eventual champions were playing some of their best football in this game. Particular praise was given to the aforementioned Raich Carter, who was ‘an inspiration’ for his team.

On the stroke of half time, the 21,693 crowd at St Andrews was celebrating once again when the home side equalised for a second time, thanks to Albert Clark’s 41st minute goal.

Unfortunately for the home side, this was as good as it got, who were blown away by Sunderland’s attacking intent in the second half.

Sunderland player Jimmy Connor Football Cigarette Card 1935 Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Goals from new signing Cecil Hornby, Gallacher, Gurney (2) and Jimmy Connor finished off a resounding victory for the newly-crowned champions.

Such was the exquisite play that Sunderland had displayed, the home fans cheered the away team off the pitch - as did the pocket of Sunderland fans who made the journey south to witness their historic victory.

Despite having watched their side humbled, the home fans applauded Sunderland from the pitch. Among the crowd was a small party of Sunderland fans who had travelled through the night to watch this thrilling event. The fans were invited to join the players at a nearby hotel where they heard the Sunderland chairman, Sir Walter Raine, congratulate the players on their brilliant season.

At this time, there appeared to be a mutual respect between Arsenal and this Sunderland side. At the end of the previous season, the Gunners (who won the league) invited the Sunderland side to the champions dinner.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of this win, within an hour of the game finishing, Sunderland received a telegram of congratulations from the old champions – a classy touch.

This team appeared to be a joy to watch. No team who had won the league had conceded as many goals as the 74 they did - yet in scoring 109 goals themselves, they scored 48 more than runners-up Derby County.

Gurney and Carter bagged 31 each, with Patsy Gallacher weighing in with 19.

Despite this being a historic and extremely momentous season for the club, it was laced with sadness. Goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe tragically died four days after he sustained injuries in an ill-tempered game against Chelsea at Roker Park in February.

Thorpe died in hospital aged 22 after being in a diabetic coma due to the injuries he sustained that day. His performances and presence were not forgotten, however, with his 1935-36 medal later presented to his widow.

Another classy touch.

Soccer - League Division One - Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - White Hart Lane Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

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