Tom Watson’s Sunderland started 1892-93 as reigning Football League champions, and following a summer restructure of the competition they couldn’t have wished to begin their title defence any better.
The creation of a second tier meant their opening fixture of the season was a maiden first division test for the Lads, and they underlined their first class credentials on this day with a superb display at Accrington.
The championship had been secured in imposing style five months earlier when Blackburn were demolished at Newcastle Road. A high scoring win over Rovers’ near neighbours Accrington a few weeks before that had been instrumental in building up crucial momentum ahead of the important run in though, and Sunderland headed back to Lancashire keen to build on a performance where they had cruised into a commanding lead before shipping a couple of frustrating late goals.
The match finished 5-3 but this time it proved much more one-sided. An early visit of the champions may have normally warranted a bumper crowd at Thorneyholme Road but the facilities there for spectators were very basic and some dreadful weather conditions put vast swathes of the locals off – the pitch was heavily affected by the downpours too but it was the Lads that coped best as they showed themselves to be a class above.
Sunderland obviously didn’t need a huge audience to be able to turn it on. Despite playing against the wind in the first half they were keen to push forward and whilst Hannah’s effort was correctly disallowed for offside it wasn’t long until they were ahead through a close range Johnny Campbell finish. Jamie Miller struck high into the goal from distance for 2-0 and it was quickly followed by another from Campbell.
There could easily have been more by this stage, but Accrington did try to respond and debutant Robert Smellie had to be switched on either side of the break to make two vital interventions, first with his head and then when clearing the ball off the line. That was it as far as the home side’s rally went however, and normal service soon resumed with another confident Campbell effort.
The Scot’s hattrick was another example of how he made the game look easy to the untrained eye. Top scorer the season before, he was already back up and running but his teammates were far from done and they gave little sign of easing up; Jock Scott showed no mercy when Accrington struggled to clear their lines and David Hannah wrapped things up with a sixth of the afternoon.
The home fans that did turn up were by now cold, wet and thoroughly miserable. Sunderland meanwhile had picked up from they left off and made it known that not only were they ready to go again, but that they were capable of even higher levels than before.
The margin of victory was the springboard for a superb run of results and by the time of the return game with Accrington in mid-October Watson’s squad were still unbeaten.
The double was duly completed with a 4-2 win and whilst a first loss did arrive later in month, it mattered little – the championship was retained with little fuss and a remarkable century of goals were scored.
Saturday 3 September 1892
Football League Division One
Sunderland 6 (Campbell 17’, 32, 49’, Millar 29’, Scott 66’, D. Hannah 78’)
Sunderland: Doig; Porteous, Smellie; Wilson, Auld, Gibson; J. Hannah, D. Hannah, Campbell, Scott, Millar.
Thorneyholme Road, attendance c. 3,000