Saturday’s edition of ‘On This Day’ featured a nervy victory over Leicester City from 2002, but Sunderland had taken on the same opposition ninety one years previously, and on that occasion it was far more clear-cut.
The Lads have a mixed record on this date but they’ve also managed some decent wins over the years, including victories against Stoke in 1892 (they didn’t become Stoke City until several years later), Middlesbrough in 1915 and South Shields in 1919.
The latter was a Durham Challenge Cup tie, but the games shared something in common, each finishing with a scoreline of 4-1.
Johnny Cochrane’s men repeated the trick in 1932 after dominating against the Foxes in a match that was billed as a relegation battle prior to kick off.
Sunderland showed few signs of nerves despite the need for points, and even though the temperature was bitterly cold and there was a strong breeze to contend with, we put on an entertaining show.
Jimmy Temple gave us the lead and the advantage was doubled just after the break courtesy of Bobby Gurney. A Harold Shaw penalty and then Joe Devine’s fourth goal of the season put Cochrane’s side in total control, but there was some consolation for the visitors when Reg Osborne also converted from the spot.
The decision to award Leicester a late penalty was one of several talking points raised by ‘Argus’ during his analysis in the following Monday’s ‘Sunderland Daily Echo’ and ‘Shipping Gazette’.
Unhappy at Manchester-based referee Mr Bunting missing ‘more than he saw’, he felt the award of a foul against Jock McDougall was ‘atrocious’, mirroring the kind of comments on referees that we’re still seeing almost a century later.
On this occasion the incident did little to change the outcome, but it was a shame for McDougall, who’d caught Argus’ watchful eye and earned his praise for shackling City dangerman Arthur Chandler. Still Leicester’s record scorer, the forward did his best in a team that failed to impress otherwise and were said to have been the poorest opposition to have visited Wearside in a while.
There were also name checks in the Echo for McDougall’s halfback partners Alex Hastings, who’d seemingly been in good form since the turn of the year, and Dan Edgar, the Jarrow-born former shipbuilder who was displaying ‘Durham grit’ having recently broken into the first team.
Argus also commented on the positive impact seen from Devine, who was back in the side following an injury, and the efforts of Benny Yorsten, who was still leading the line well, despite going four games without a goal.
However, there were also some words of caution.
After the game, there were apparently a few too many congratulatory words being shared in the boardroom despite survival not yet being guaranteed, and Argus felt that Gurney, although performing manfully, wasn’t being fully utilised at outside right.
These proved to be wise sentiments indeed, although it was only in the weeks, months and years afterwards that they came to pass.
Survival was eventually confirmed thanks to a superb run of five wins out of the final six games, starting with a comfortable afternoon against Leicester. It saw the Lads pull themselves away from the bottom of the table and end up in thirteenth place, but 1931/1932 was hardly a vintage campaign, all things considered.
It was only later in the decade that fans got to see one of the club’s greatest ever sides, by which point Gurney was spearheading the charge for league and cup glory from his natural position of centre forward.
Argus was proven to be on the money once again.
Saturday 2 April 1932
Football League Division One
Sunderland 4 (Temple 28’, Gurney 48’, Shaw 67’, Devine 80’)
Leicester City 1 (Osborne 81’)
Sunderland: Middleton, Murray, Shaw; Hastings, McDougall, Edgar; Gurney, Temple, Yorsten; Devine, Gallacher.
Roker Park, Sunderland