After a fourth-place finish in Division One during the 1954/1955 campaign, Sunderland set off across the Atlantic and they were about to face a familiar opponent on this day sixty eight years ago.
Having drawn twice with Huddersfield Town over Christmas, the two clubs found themselves in North America for their end-of-season tours and they staged a series of exhibitions for the locals.
After starting with a 7-2 victory over a United States select side shortly after arriving, the Lads first took on the Terriers in mid May and following games against various other teams, they reconvened on the final day of the month.
The first clash had seen Bill Murray’s side come from 2-0 down to win 3-2, and after heading to Canada, the second match was another high-scoring affair.
Held in Winnipeg, the game was an entertaining 3-3 draw and once everybody had travelled to Toronto, they did it all again on the 4th of June.
This time, the teams were at the Varsity Stadium, to which Sunderland would return in 1967 under the guise of the ‘Vancouver Royal Canadians’, when they took on Toronto City (otherwise known as Hibernian) in the United Soccer Association.
Another 3-3 draw was played out with Town but whilst records of the other fixtures were relatively comprehensive, details on this one are harder to come by. There are no reports known to be available, and the only part of the action to have been confirmed is that future Newcastle United manager Billy McGarry got a late equaliser for Huddersfield.
It’s possible that a tight schedule precluded any write ups, as within twenty four hours, the parties had moved back to America and on to Detroit where they took part in another ‘tie’, with the game finishing 2-2 on that occasion.
That was the final match for Sunderland and perhaps an element of fatigue had played a part in the failure to note things down. It had been a long month, after all, with plenty of other distractions to occupy the mind.
Sunderland were based in New York for a large portion of the tour, and our squad contained plenty of household names by English standards but even the likes of Len Shackleton, Stan Anderson, Billy Bingham, Ray Daniel and Billy Elliott were in danger of being overshadowed in the ‘Big Apple’.
Taking in the sights, they visited Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building, but the highlight for many was dining just off Broadway at a swanky restaurant alongside A-list film stars such as Shelley Winters, Patricia Neal and Dane Clark.
Given a daily allowance for food, the players became regulars at the venue and were thrilled to learn that it was next door to a studio where the one and only Marilyn Monroe was studying. She too was a frequent customer and could often be found at a nearby table.
Back in Blighty, meanwhile, things were a bit more mundane.
Although some members of the board had travelled with the party, other officials had to remain in the UK and prepare to represent the club at the Football League’s annual meeting.
Taking place on the same day as this featured game, Sunderland were expected to propose a relaxation of the rules surrounding floodlit fixtures and the construction of a new national stadium, as well as an increase in ticket allocations for clubs competing in the FA Cup final.
Not quite as glamorous, perhaps, but important nonetheless...
Saturday 4 June 1955
Tour match, Canadian leg
Huddersfield Town 3
Varsity Stadium, Toronto