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On This Day (8th February 1936): Sunderland win at Anfield after an emotional week

In a season marred by the tragic loss of one of our brightest talents, a trip to Merseyside provided a memorable highlight on this day eighty eight years ago

The 1935/1936 season was a poignant one in Sunderland AFC’s history.

Despite boasting some of the best players around at this time, along with the results to back it up, an otherwise successful season was marred by the tragic death of goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe.

In a magnificent display of bravery, manager Billy Dunlop (pictured above) brought his Sunderland side to Anfield only days after Thorpe lost his life during a terribly bad-tempered game against Chelsea.

Not only was it an act of courage to fulfil the fixture in such devastating circumstances, the team played like the champions they were to eventually become, emerging as 3-0 winners.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland Photocall Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

On the pitch, these were heady times for Sunderland with the newspapers lavishing praise on them.

The Sunday Mercury stated that the team had ‘played like champions’ whilst the Evening Despatch claimed that we were now ‘running away with it’, in reference to the Division One title race.

In what was described as ‘one way traffic’, Sunderland did all the damage in the first twenty minutes, as a Bobby Gurney brace and a Patsy Gallacher goal finished the game as a contest.

According to reports, Liverpool were hamstrung by the absence of their two main defenders, with their replacements not up to the task.

Liverpool missed Cooper and Blenkinsop sadly at Anfield.

The reserve defenders, Harley and Dabbs, were never able to cope with the league leaders’ attack, which was full of fast moves and fiery shooting.

Gurney impressed in this game, and was described as a ‘terrier for work’. His goal in the second minute sent Sunderland on their way before he added a second almost halfway through the first half.

Gurney took a snap goal in the second minute when McDougall made a weak pass back and tapped in a second goal in the seventeenth minute when Connor headed goalwards.

These came either side of Gallacher’s goal, which arrived via a header from a corner kick taken by Bert Davis.

Soccer - Football League Division One - Sunderland Photocall Photo by Barratts/PA Images via Getty Images

Furthermore, multiple reports expressed their admiration for how we defended.

Described as ‘shaky’ after conceding plenty of goals up until this point of the season, we were said to be comfortable in this game due to a ‘haphazard’ approach by the Liverpool attack.

As previously stated, the game was over as a contest after our early goal blitz, but Liverpool goalkeeper Arthur Riley played a major role in ensuring the result didn’t become embarrassing for the home team.

Liverpool were never in the hunt. Riley was inundated with shots and came out from a severe test with honours.

The result left us sitting comfortably at the top of the league but more importantly, we’d achieved a result that our goalkeeper, teammate and friend Jimmy Thorpe would’ve been proud of.

Liverpool (2-3-5): Arthur Riley, Tommy Cooper (C), Ben Dabbs; Ted Savage, Tom Bradshaw, Jimmy McDougall; Jack Balmer, Billy Hartill, Fred Howe; Jimmy Collins, Vic Wright.

Sunderland (2-3-5): Matt Middleton, Tom Morrison, Alex Hall; Charlie Thomson, Jimmy Clark, Alex Hastings; Bert Davis, Raich Carter (C), Bobby Gurney, Pat Gallacher; James Connor.

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