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On This Day (5th September 1903): Sunderland thrash Aston Villa 6-1!

After just missing out on the title on the final day of the previous season, Sunderland started the 1903-04 season off like a steam train. Frustrated by the narrow margin of last year’s finish in the league, they seemed determined to prove a point this time around.

After a 2-1 victory over Notts County on the opening day of the season, the club welcomed Aston Villa - who also marginally lost the title - to the North East for this mouth-watering encounter between two of the heavyweights in the league.

Villa and Sunderland had each finished a point behind the previous season’s champions Wednesday and were expected to challenge for the title again.

Having won 4-1 against Notts County in the league’s first match four days previous, the club had high hopes for replicating this victory.

Aston Villa’s first game was a 2-2 draw with our arch-rivals Newcastle United up north. In the aftermath of that game, Villa stayed north and trained in Tynemouth preparing for this big game.

Although Villa won the toss, their decision to make Sunderland play into the wind appeared to backfire. The away side was blown (sorry!) away as the home team ran into an early 2-0 lead in the opening four minutes.

‘Whitey’ Robson and Arthur Bridgett came to the fore, with both scoring and assisting each other for the opening two goals.

In a chaotic opening to the game, Villa were back in it after 15 minutes. Sunderland goalkeeper Ted Doig - who was said to be usually reliable - made an error to give Villa the goal back.

From a corner Doig dropped the ball in a packed box with Villa’s Jasper Mcuckie quickest to pounce to give his team a chance to get back into the game.

After this moment of calamity, Sunderland were under pressure and it was almost 2-2 when Joe Nibloe missed a great chance when he hit a snap shot wide in front of the goal. Soon after, Jimmy Gemmell scored what was described as ‘the goal of the game’ on the half hour mark before he emulated the earlier Sunderland scores by setting up Billy Hogg for the fourth.

From this point on, Sunderland dominated creating an abundance of opportunities. With a quarter of an hour left, Bridgett created a second goal for Hogg and a couple of minutes later Craggs completed the scoring as for the third time in the match Sunderland scored two goals within a minute of each other.

Andy McCombie Newcastle United Cigarette Card 1907 Stu Forster/Getty Images/Hulton Archive

The Sunderland train died down somewhat as the season wore on. Whilst the team continued to score many goals, their defending at the other end was their Achilles heel throughout the campaign.

It was a time of change and chaos at the club. The team finished 6th in the league but it was the issue involving Andy McCombie that rocked the club.

McCombie was taken to court by the club after his transfer to Newcastle. The dispute surrounded a payment of £100 which McCombie believed was a gift but the club disputed it was a loan.

The dispute carried on into the next season where significant repercussions landed at the club's door after the FA ruled in favour of the player.


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