IN PICTURES: Exhibition marks SAFC’s 135th anniversary

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WEARSIDE historians are hoping to score a hit with an exhibition marking the 135th anniversary of Sunderland AFC.

A six-week birthday celebration is to be held at Sunderland Antiquarian Society featuring images and memorabilia charting the club’s rich history.

BATTLER: Goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe playing for Sunderland at White Hart Lane in the 1930s.

BATTLER: Goalkeeper Jimmy Thorpe playing for Sunderland at White Hart Lane in the 1930s.

“The exhibition is made up primarily of rarely-seen photographs of the club through the years,” said author and society secretary Philip Curtis.

“We’ve also got handwritten match reports covering every first team, reserve and friendly match from the 1880s – right through to 1962.

“These were transcribed from newspapers of the time and took 25 years to complete. They are of such interest that we’ve put together a CD of them.

“And there are 400 large scrapbooks covering every match from 1962 to 2006 too, with at least one photo from each game. Absolutely fascinating.”

The roots of SAFC date to 1879, when Glasgow-born Wearside teacher James Allan founded Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association Football Club.

Robert Singleton was appointed as the club’s first captain, with W Elliott the team secretary. The first home ground was Hendon’s Blue House Field.

“The club’s first match was a less than auspicious 1-0 defeat to Ferryhill during the teacher’s Christmas holiday,” said historian Carol Roberton.

“Indeed, the team came perilously close to going out of business in the early days, until membership was opened up to outsiders – not just teachers.”

The club was renamed Sunderland AFC in 1880, with the enthusiastic amateurs moving from Hendon to a pitch near The Cedars during the 1881-82 campaign.

A second move, to a field now part of Ashbrooke cricket ground, took place later that season, while the summer of 1883 saw them settle in Roker Avenue.

“Finally, Allan’s dedication to the world of football started to pay off and, in 1890, the club replaced Stoke in the Football League,” said Carol.

“Success was almost immediate, as the club won the league championship in the 1891-92 season. They were even declared as “The Team of All Talents”.

Success then followed success, with three championships in five extraordinary campaigns – as well as the league’s first 100-goal season in 1892-93.

By the mid-1930s the Black Cats had been crowned League champions six times and, in 1937, brought the FA Cup back home after beating Preston 3-1.

Almost 40 years later, in 1973, the FA Cup returned to Wearside following a 1-0 win over Leeds – and it has been a roller-coaster ride ever since.

“Of course there have been down times along the way but, you expect that in football. The club takes the knocks and keeps fighting,” said Philip.

“Our photos are evocative of the era before players earned multi-million-pound wages and teams began to be assembled with players from around the world.

“I’m sure that anyone interested in Sunderland, or the history of the club, will find our exhibition fascinating. There is something for everyone.

“Many of the photos have never been seen by Wearsiders and we hope they will bring memories flooding back for older fans, while at the same time show youngsters a little of the history of the club.”

* The display will run from October 25 to November 30 at Sunderland Antiquarian Society, 6 Douro Terrace. It is open each Wednesday and Saturday from 9am until noon.