When Sunderland was on its way to Wembley

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Eighty years ago, Sunderland began an FA Cup journey which would end at Wembley.

They were the elite, the reigning league champions and a team widely regarded as the best in the land.

But what was success without a trip down Wembley way, and bringing the cup back to Wearside?

For years, they had tried and failed. But this year was different and in a two-part look back, Chris Cordner relives the 1936-37 cup run.

l It all started on a long trip to Southampton.

Gurney, Hornby and Gallacher netted in a 3-2 away victory for Sunderland which set them on their way.

Hopes were not high of a strong cup run. After all, we had been at Wembley before in 1913 in what was billed as the match of the century with Aston Villa. Sunderland were never in it.

One of the directors at the time was Alderman Fred Taylor. He described the form of the team as too bad to be true.

Yes, it was a different team in 1936-37 but the side still had its critics.

The team clearly wasn’t listening and on a freezing cold winter day at Luton, they battled back from a 2-0 deficit to force a replay, with goals from Connor and Duns.

The return tie was a 3-1 win with Connor and Duns both netting and Carter completing the scoring.

Next up was Swansea Town and the fifth round tie was a more one-sided affair with Gurney, Duns and a Caldwell own goal settling it.

As the team progressed, the age old arguments surfaced - the sort of thing you still see today among football fans.

They were better players in the 1891 championship winning team, was one thread.

They were paid too much, was another.

An Echo columnist suggested: “Just think for a moment, you £20-a-week men of today, that Teddy Doig of that side and the prince of Scottish goalkeepers never had more than £3 a week at Sunderland.”

They were too attack minded, said another. An Echo report concluded; “Perhaps too many goals were conceded but it was wonderful fare for the bob-enders.”

And a fourth trend, from their North East rivals, was for Newcastle fans to comment: “They’re not Cup fighters. We had to scratch our heads for an answer to that one,” said the Echo.

But putting all argument aside, Sunderland were in the sixth round and drew 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers away. A hard fought battle in the mud with Duns on the score sheet again.

The replay at Roker Park finished 2-2 with Duns and Gurney netting for the Wearsiders, and Sunderland only getting an equaliser with 30 seconds to go of normal time. Fans scrambled to get back into the ground when the roar went up.

A second replay was held at Hillsborough and this time there was no mistake. Gurney, Carter, Gallacher and a Thomson penalty settled it.

They were into the semis for a tie with Millwall at neutral Huddersfield.

Millwall took an early lead through player manager Dave Magnall and were all over Sunderland for 15 minutes.

But Gurney anticipated a Millwall attempt to clear the ball and scored from what seemed an impossible angle. It was all Sunderland after that but Millwall keeper Yuill kept them out until Gallacher got a headed winner.

Yuill’s performance had been so impressive, he was chaired off the pitch by his teammates.

For Sunderland, though, Wembley was beckoning and Preston North End - the Invincibles of old - were waiting.

When Cup Final weekend arrived, Sunderland supporters headed to London en masse.

And their supporters, who amassed at King’s Cross Station, were hailed as “the jetsam of the great flood of humanity.”

There were red and white rosettes everywhere. People had paid big money to get there.

Others decorated their cars for the “great trek South”.

And when they got to London, they gazed in awe at a city festooned in red, white and blue regalia - in preparation for the Coronation of King George VI which was less than a fortnight away.

It could just as easily have been for the two teams who were about to serve up a footballing feast.

Next week - a match befitting of the big day.