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On This Day (23rd May 1976): Sunderland play Tasmania in their post season overseas Oceania tour!

The lads headed down under for a long-haul post season tour!

Nowadays, it is commonplace for clubs to embark on overseas tours, usually as part of a series of financially lucrative pre-season friendlies.

What is not perhaps not too well known is that Sunderland were one of the first club to consider such a tour.

One of the first of the club’s overseas tour was hoped to have been Canada and USA in 1894. The team were looking to play at least a dozen games after the 1894-95 season, and the plan was to sail from Liverpool to New York. However, the idea was shelved due to soaring costs and a lack of a definitive match schedule.

The club finally got to the USA in 1955 and 1967 for their friendly matches, however in 1976, Sunderland travelled to Oceania.

In what was one of the club’s last major post-season overseas tour, the team flew halfway round the world for a ten game, 24 day long trip. Manager Bob Stokoe didn’t make the trip over with his assistant Ian McFarlane taking on the reigns for the duration of the tour.

Soccer - Sunderland AFC Photocall - Roker Park Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

The club started in Tahiti and finished in Singapore taking in New Zealand and six Australian states and territories on the way.

Seven games were won with the other three drawn - leaving the team unbeaten on their travels. Six games were against the national sides of Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore with the remainder played against state teams.

Starting with two games in beautiful Tahiti against the national team – a 5-1 win followed by a face-saving 2-2 draw – at the beginning of May, the players moved from east to west - on to New Zealand to play Auckland, and then across the Tasman Sea to Australia for an intense series of six matches in two weeks; twice against the national side – the first in Sydney and then in Melbourne, in between games against four state sides, starting in Queensland and continuing to Tasmania

On this day, one of the most memorable games from the trip was Sunderland’s game against Tasmania. With the 1973 FA Cup win still fresh in the memories of many, over 2,000 fans turned up in the King George V Park in Glenorchy to see their side play the Black Cats.

Of the 1973 cup winning team, only four of the team were involved in the matchday squad for this game - with Jim Montgomery and Dick Malone starting the game.

Sunderland Starting XI: Montgomery, Malone, Bolton, Longhorn, Ashurst, Moncur, Rowell, Train, Henderson, Greenwood, Holden

From the outset, the stark difference in quality was obvious. Sunderland pumped crosses into the Tasmanian box with their goalkeeper Eddie Puclin looking particularly vulnerable under them where he was constantly flapping.

Winning 3-0 at half time, the team were far superior with Mel Holden ranking up a hat trick. In the second half, Holden added another two. Jim Montgomery also saved a penalty from John Constantinovits in the 55th minute, with the Tasmanian forward receiving his marching orders 20 minutes later.

As what was appearing to be the theme of this trip, Sunderland (and Mel Holden) scored plenty of goals with locals enjoying seeing their teams play against one of England’s better known clubs.

The Sunderland players would continue their tour in Perth before beginning their journey going back home to Blighty the next day - with a stop off in Singapore to play their national side before arriving back at Newcastle Airport the following Sunday to rest, recuperate, and prepare for the new season back in the top flight.

On This Day (9 June 2007): Midfielder turns down Sunderland return – and heads to Bolton instead


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