Sunderland AFC 1911/12

Sunderland AFC team 1911/12; a rare colourised postcard from the era
Sunderland AFC team 1911/12; a rare colourised postcard from the era

With a virtual identical home record to the previous season it was disappointing to finish in 8th place. This was on the back of a pretty poor away campaign, where we lost no fewer than 10 times. But patience with the new players would give its rewards next season.

By the first week in august Charlie Buchan stood 5ft 9in and weighed 10st 5lbs. By the end of November he stood just over 6 ft and weighed exactly the same. His physical development made him so weak he could hardly stand up. After each training session he was forced to lie down for hours. His form suffered, the crowd barracked him and he pleaded to be dropped. Bob Kyle was a wily old fox and refused. Both he and trainer Billy Williams took him under their wing.

In mid November it all got too much and he declared that he would “never play for Sunderland again”, of course he did, he put on weight and he was ok.

The season kicked off with a home win against Middlesbrough, George Holley scoring the all important goal. The result hinged on both superior physique, the Sunderland team was strong as an ox and what was termed “the more scientific football” by the media.

A second game followed, this time Blackburn Rovers, being the vanquished foe by the convincing margin of 3 vs. 0. The game was played in brilliant sunshine and the turf was lush. It must have helped Holley who notched a brace, the first scored after 8 minutes and Bridgett accompanied him on the score sheet.

The “A” Team were of course once more straight into their stride and hammered The Boro 4 vs. 0 on 9 September.

Our first reverse came at Trent Bridge and Notts County the same day as the second string win, 1 vs. 3 the scoreline. Buchan couldn’t make it having been injured against Blackburn, a marked man already, and we suffered without him. The first draw of the campaign, against Tottenham, was immediately followed by another, 2 vs. 2 against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Rain had fallen for over 2 hours before the game and the 15,000 crowd were soaked. The conditions didn’t help Sunderland’s passing game. Against Liverpool at Roker we suffered our first campaign defeat 1 vs. 2, again played in wretched weather, reducing the attendance to some 12,000. The terrific gale that blew made it almost impossible to play good football.

By 7 October the bad weather sweeping England had subsided and given way to a beautiful autumnal day. It brought about a change in our fortunes as for the first time in 5 games we won, this time in Birmingham against The villa.

The Magpies then arrived on Wearside and in a fiercely contested game the black and whites triumphed 2 vs. 1, with holey our lone marksman on the day. A win at Bramall Lane was followed by another defeat by our Tyneside neighbours, this time in the Newcastle & Sunderland Hospital Cup at St James Park. The Magpies even had the “luxury” of missing a McCracken penalty blazed high, wide and handsome over the bar. The 11,372 crowd raised some £318 for charity.

For the Oldham game on Wearside Sunderland had a makeshift forward line on show, with the normal outside left Bridgett temporarily shifted to centre forward. It had an effect, with plenty of goals, the red and white defeating the Lancashire side by the odd goal in 7. Gemmell scored a brace, with Mordue and Bridgett himself chipping in. One nil up after 17 minutes we never looked back.

At Bolton the directors decided to bring back Holley at centre forward with Bridgett reverting to his usual “crossing” role but it backfired, as Wanderers put us to the sword 0 vs. 3. After Visard had given the home side the lead, they never looked back. 11 November and Sunderland had entered there “A” side for the Durham senior cup, and gained a good 4 vs. 0 4rth round victory over Windy Nook. November was a poor month with 2 draws and 2 defeats, but Buchan scored in the 1 vs. 1 at Roker against Bradford city. We had come from behind after Blair scored inside the first 5 minutes for the visitors. December and we played 7 games, winning 3, drawing 2 and defeats by Everton and Sheffield Wednesday made it an “iffy” time for the Lads.

The Wednesday game in Yorkshire on Boxing Day was ridiculous. Quite how we lost 0 vs. 8 is still a mystery. At Owlerton we were put to the sword and incurred our record defeat, something that would still jointly stand by the end of the millennium.

A Kirkman goal after 4 minutes started the rout and from there on we were decidedly second best. It didn’t help that the influential Thomson was forced to leave the field after 20 minutes, following a collision. Kirkman made it 2, McLean 3, before Thomson returned to the field still groggy. Glennen made it 4, McLean got a 5th 5 minutes later, Glennen made it 6 and then 2 minutes before the interval it was 7, McLean competing his hat trick. McLean scored the 8th on 55 minutes and rout was complete. The bad luck for Sunderland didn’t end there, as Scott, the goalkeeper, was carried from the field and taken to the Sheffield Royal hospital after a “scrimmage” between a ruck of players.

An away draw at Ayresome Park was followed by a quick opportunity to get revenge with Wednesday visiting us New Years Day. We didn’t manage a goal and it ended 0 vs. 0. We decided that Notts County was the team to take it out on and hammered them 5 vs. 0 just 5 days after the Owls game. Buchan was in the thick of the action and scored, but both Holley and Mordue stole the show with a brace a piece. We had good luck in the English/FA cup defeating “The Pilgrims” from Plymouth 3 vs. 1 to progress. Argyle brought about 1,000 supporters from the south West but their trip was in vain. The southern League side were mesmerised by what was termed Charlie Buchan’s “don’t care” style of play, a complete treat to watch. Mordue scored after 13 minutes, and the attempts of Horne in the Argyle goal to narrow the angle had little effect as he cracked it in at the far post. Burch had the audacity to equalise after 36 minutes, so we sauntered up the pitch and Mordue cracked home a penalty after Buchan had been fouled by butler. Bridgett added a third for the red and whites and basically that was that.

A draw at white Hart Lane was followed by a 5 vs. 0 rout of Manchester United, in a totally one sided encounter. Holley scored 4 and the magical Buchan decided to cap a great performance with a goal. 3 days earlier and the “A” team were defeated by Newcastle City 1 vs. 2. And so to the next round of the cup against Crystal Palace. This second round tie in south London ended 0 vs. 0, producing gate receipts of £758. The replay at Roker Park was played on a quagmire of a pitch. It had snowed, there was ice, there had been a thaw and an army of volunteers had worked round the clock to get the pitch in some sort of state. Whilst the game ended 1 vs. 0 to Sunderland it was a desperate struggle that necessitated extra time with Harry low scoring the all important goal after good work by Cuggy.

The next game against Villa at Roker ended 2 vs. 2 but it was evident that the exertions of the cup replay had taken it out of Sunderland. We then capitulated at St James Park 1 vs. 3 in the league. Our consolation was scored once more by Low and the Archibold cup went to Tyneside.

The next round of the English cup produced all sorts of records. With over 43,000 in the ground, and 10,000 locked out it created a crowd record, to go with gate receipts of some £1,572. Quite how such a crowd fitted into the stadium was a moot point. At one stage the West Bromwich party were refused entry and they were the opposition!! Mounted police plus Charlie Thomson spent time and energy getting the crowd back from the perimeter of the pitch, but there was a stunned silence when the referee blew the final whistle with the Birmingham side victorious 2 vs. 1. An error by the Sunderland goalkeeper Scott, early on, had set The Throstles on there way. Pailor the striker from West Hartlepool did the damage. He was a thorn in the side of the North East clubs having scored a hat trick against Newcastle United a couple of weeks earlier.

2 0 vs. 0 draws followed, then 4 defeats in the next 5 games. It was evident that as with previous occasions our exit from the FA cup had resulted in poor form. 3 victories in the last 4 games saw us finish 8th. It could have, and should have been better. In this season England became Olympic Football champions as they defeated Denmark 4 vs. 2 in Stockholm to retain the title they had won 4 years previously.

The Sunderland AFC annual meeting took place in the Palatine Hotel on 29 May. It indicated a satisfactory financial performance with an overall gross profit of some £824. Players’ wages for the season amounted to some £4,642.


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