Although regular foes in friendlies and benefit games, plus an FA Cup tie when the opposition were known as Newcastle East End, it wasn’t until 1898-99 that there were points on the line in a Wear-Tyne derby.
By that stage, Sunderland had already established themselves as an early Football League force but it was only now that they had been joined in the top tier by neighbours Newcastle United, who were hosts on this day for just the second league fixture between the two clubs and the first ever to be held on Tyneside.
Although the Lads had been champions three times already under Tom Watson, this wasn’t exactly a vintage season for his predecessor Robert Campbell and his side were marooned in midtable as they headed north.
They were followed still by a large contingent from Wearside however, still smarting no doubt from two derby defeats at Roker earlier in the campaign – one of which was another supposed friendly in which no love was lost despite it being played on Valentine’s Day.
Despite being on the losing side on that occasion, Scottish forward Colin McLatchie scored a hattrick and he proved to be the difference in this rematch. It was a tight affair, and the deadlock was only broken in the closing stages when a defensive mix up led to James Crawford winning the ball and crossing it for the only goal.
The points were a welcome boost but when the rivals met again exactly six years later, Sunderland were in much greater need for a pick-me-up despite having won the league once again in the meantime. The 1901-02 title was masterminded by Alex Mackie but by 1904-05 he was on his way out following an FA investigation that had been prompted by the sale of Andy McCombie to none other than Newcastle.
The incident added extra bite to the St. James’ match, which had welcomed in a record attendance. Mag fans have always seemed to enjoy turning up at Sunderland fixtures and they were present to witness Mackie’s penultimate game in charge – he had been suspended earlier in the campaign and was now about to leave for good.
He signed off with two victories, the latter coming at home to Sheffield United two days after a double over the title chasing black and whites had been confirmed. Whereas the 1899 trip had been nip and tuck, this one went followed along similar lines to the clash earlier in the season when Sunderland took an early lead and finished up comfortable winners.
George Holley, who still holds the record for most goals scored in Wear-Tyne bouts, got things rolling when he swiped possession and fired in. The defending for it was suspect, and the Lads were given another helping hand when Alec Gardner was forced off injured; within minutes they’d extended the lead when Harry Buckle danced through and blasted a shot high into the net.
Before half time there was a disallowed goal for offside and a Colin Veitch penalty to spur the hosts on but they were generally kept at arm’s length after the break, and the result was then put beyond doubt after Holley’s second. There were now offside claims from the home team, but this time they were overruled as the Seaham man collected Jimmy Gemmell’s pass and finished with confidence.
In 1899 the derby success proved to be the final Sunderland outing for the great Hugh Wilson, whilst in 1905 another league winner also bowed out after beating the old enemy. Dickie Jackson, who was from Middlesbrough and so knew all about North East tensions, had scored a brace in the Roker leg four months earlier but was soon headed south for Portsmouth – the pair had both been popular with Wearside fans, and their swansongs were two of the best imaginable.
Wins over Newcastle will always be celebrated no matter what the circumstances, so to beat them twice on the same date makes the 22nd of April all the more noteworthy.
Saturday 22 April 1899
Football League Division One
Newcastle United 0
Sunderland 1 (McLatchie 74)
Sunderland: Doig; McCombie, McNeill; Wilson, McAllister, Raisbeck; Crawford, Leslie, Farquhar, Fulton, McLatchie.
St. James’ Park, attendance c. 25,000
Saturday 22 April 1905
Football League Division One
Newcastle United 1 (Veitch 41)
Sunderland 3 (Holley 25, 83, Buckle 30)
Sunderland: Webb; Rhodes, Watson; Willis, Barrie, Jackson; Hogg, Holley, Gemmell, Bridgett, Buckle.
St. James’ Park, attendance 28,497