Football League winners and FA Cup finalists Sunderland rounded off a superb 1912-13 campaign with a seven game tour of Europe.
The club had already enjoyed a similar jaunt four years earlier, but whilst the inaugural overseas voyage in 1909 was an enlightening affair, the return proved to be slightly less convivial.
Differences in playing styles and interpretations of the rules led to several heated exchanges, but at least there was some familiarity on this day with a fixture against fellow tourists Blackburn Rovers.
The Lancastrians had just been usurped as champions by the Lads, and the two heavyweights produced a high quality affair in which Sunderland underlined their new position.
Back in England Rovers had been the only team to take maximum points from the Rokermen, who gained an element of revenge despite trailing after an hour. George Holley had given Sunderland an initial lead, and after going behind to goals from Eddie Latheron and Danny Shea they rallied; Charlie Buchan making it 2-2 before Holley settled the game with a late winner. The match was played in Budapest at the Ulloi uti Stadium (later renamed the Albert Florian), home of Ferencvaros, who had already been humbled 9-0 by Sunderland at the start of the trip.
Despite the eye catching start to the fortnight, the Blackburn clash was presumably a welcome break from what had since turned somewhat acrimonious. Four days after the 3-2 victory the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette updated readers back home via the contents of an illuminating letter from Robert Kyle, billed then as ‘secretary of the Sunderland Club’, in which he expressed some concerns. Although he and his men were the subject of intrigue and warmly greeted off the pitch, some of the hosts he felt were not quite so hospitable come kick-off as the following excerpts from his missive tell:
We won at Vienna by 7-0, against a selected team... The scorers were Buchan, Tinsley, Butler (from a penalty), Low (2), Mordue and Richardson. The team again received an ovation, and I can assure you that though the ground was like a Durham County road the lads gave a first class exhibition. The Press commenting on the display stated: “The work of Sunderland was quite up to expectations. They were the best seen till now in Vienna, and the best in perfection and combination.”
When in Vienna a chap asked Harry Low what my nationality was and Harry replied “Irish” “Oh!” replied the inquirer, “he speaks very good English to be an Irishman!”
On arrival at Pozsony at 11 am. on the 12th we were taken to the first-class waiting room, where an address of welcome was read, after which some ladies decorated the party with red and white carnations. They then drove us in landaus, each having a little red and white flag flying, to our hotel. Well, the same day we beat an eleven from Budapest by five to one, and this was the best team we have so far met. They literally ran round us for the first 15 minutes and scored, but failed to stay the pace... Eventually Buchan equalised, Cringan scored next, Mordue added a third from a penalty, and Cringan…scored a fourth. In the second half Buchan, after some very clever footwork, scored a fine fifth goal. The game was very rough. The natives to my mind were out for blood, and scarce a man bar the goalkeeper escaped. Cringan…was ordered off the field for retaliating, but after gentle persuasion with the referee he was allowed to remain, the referee announcing to the stand people that both players had made it up. I can assure you our players will feel the effect of the knocks for some days, and many of them aver no more Continental tours. You see if we knock a man down people cry “Foul,” but if on the other hand our lads go down a regular laugh goes up.
The highlight of the tour appears to have been goalkeeper Joe Butler scoring from the penalty spot, and after winning against Blackburn things were rounded off with two more victories to complete a 100% record. Berlin and Hamburg XI’s were beaten 7-0 and 5-0 respectively, even though the latter finished against nine men after Jimmy Richardson and Charlie Buchan were dismissed (although some reports indicated that Buchan had actually walked off in protest towards the hostility being shown by the opponents and spectators).
The statuette presented after taking on Blackburn is still on display at the Stadium of Light 110 years later, a nice memento from what was at other times a bad-tempered sojourn.
Wednesday 14 May 1913
Tour match, Hungarian leg
Blackburn Rovers 2 (Latheron 29’, Shea 53’)
Sunderland 3 (Holley 23’, 88’, Buchan 60’)
Sunderland: Butler; Gladwin, Ness; Cringan, Thomson, Low; Mordue, Buchan, Richardson, Holley, Martin
Ulloi uti Stadium, Budapest attendance c. 11,000