The 16th of April has seen some significant Sunderland AFC results over the years, including a win over Bury in 1902 that clinched a fourth league title, a 3-0 success against Birmingham City that all but guaranteed promotion in 1996 and a memorable night at Barnsley three years later where the Division One championship was confirmed.
These were all very fine achievements, but you could argue that even those occasions were eclipsed by a victory on this day in 1892 – when the Lads were crowned champions of England for the first time AND completed a home record still to be matched over 130 years later.
Despite leading the table for a couple of weeks, Sunderland’s charge had faltered slightly when they lost at Notts County seven days earlier. Tom Watson’s side knew however that the finishing line was still in sight as they welcomed Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle Road, and whilst the visitors were sat in midtable the Wearsiders knew they shouldn’t be taken lightly; not only had Rovers had won the English (FA) Cup in 1890 and 1891, but they had already beaten Sunderland earlier in the season too.
In addition to all of that, the Lads were having to make do without influential skipper John Auld following injury against Stoke. His absence had been keenly felt in Nottingham, but there was some positive news coming from Lancashire at least when it was discovered that Blackburn were suffering a bit of a crisis and would be understrength – boss Thomas Mitchell having to draft in the intriguingly named quartet of Coombe Hall, James Cockshutt, Harry Chippendale and John Stringfellow from the reserves.
Hall scored in the first half to peg back a Sunderland side that had gone ahead early when Johnny Campbell dispatched Jock Smith’s cross. They regained control before any nerves could take hold however, with Jamie Millar nodding in Hugh Wilson’s centre, and from that point onwards they turned on the style to earn a maiden Football League title. Campbell, who ended 1891-92 as the country’s top scorer, grabbed three more (although some reports initially credited one of them to Davy Hannah) before Jimmy Hannah (no relation) wrapped things up with two minutes left.
With rivals Preston North End losing at Aston Villa and having only one game remaining, Sunderland could not be caught. They could now boast a 100% winning record at home too, with their league programme due to be rounded off with trips to Darwen and Burnley. Wins at both, including a 7-1 thrashing of Darwen, proved to be the cherry on the cake amidst a flurry of friendlies that included yet more impressive victories.
Games all finished, the trophy was not presented to the champions until the following month, when on the 12th of May the League held its annual meeting at the Queen’s Hotel in Fawcett Street on the site now occupied by Flannels.
It was a proud moment for the club and an important date for the game too, as at the same event it was agreed that a second division should be formed. Things were not so positive however for town rivals Sunderland Albion, who on the same night held a meeting of their own at the Empress Hotel in nearby Union Street.
With mounting financial difficulties and having just been beaten by Sunderland AFC by an aggregate of 14-1 over two of those friendlies, they made the hard decision to fold. It was a sad end for one outfit, but their counterparts were only just getting started!
Saturday 16 April 1892
Sunderland 6 (Campbell 8, 40, 75, 85, Millar 23, J. Hannah 88)
Blackburn Rovers 1 (Hall 22)
Sunderland: Doig; Porteous, Gow; Wilson, Gibson, Murray; J. Hannah, Smith, Campbell, D. Hannah, Millar.
Newcastle Road, attendance c. 10,000