Black Cat hero Alf’s title medal fetches £5,000 at auction sale

Alf Common's league title medal
Alf Common's league title medal

A nine carat gold Football League Division One championship medal awarded to a Sunderland AFC star when the Black Cats won the league title in 1902 has sold for £5,000 at auction.

It is thought that the medal was awarded to Sunderland-born Alf Common, who made history in February 1905 when Sunderland sold him to Middlesbrough, maklng him the first £1,000 footballer.

It had been expected to featch a price in the region of £5-7,000.

London auctioneer Graham Budd said: “It is believed that the medal was awarded to Alf Common and was acquired by his friend, Fred Priest, a team mate at Sheffield United.

“This Sunderland medal was in a group amongst others won by Priest in his football career. The current vendor (of the Sunderland medal) still has the Priest medals in his possession.”

It was the third time the Black Cats had won the league title, having also been champions in 1892-1893 and 1894-1895.

Common played for South Hylton juniors and Jarrow before joining Sunderland in August 1900.

In October 1901, shortly after breaking into the Sunderland first team and after playing in the opening games of the 1901-1902 title-winning season, the Black Cats sold him to Sheffield United for £325.

He went on to help the Blades win the FA Cup in 1902, before returning to Sunderland in June 1904 in a record £520 move.

But just eight months later, in February 1905, Sunderland sold him to Middlesbrough for an historic £1,000 fee.

Common later played for Woolwich Arsenal and Preston North End before he retired from football in 1914.

He became landlord of the Cleaver Hotel in Darlington and later the town’s Alma Hotel.

When Sunderland won the league title in 1901-1902, they won nineteen of their 34 league games that season.

They ended up with 44 points, three more than their nearest rivals Everton.