Laughs, cheers and pre-match nerves: A Sunderland fan’s view of the 1937 FA Cup Final

Sunderland skipper Raich Carter presents his team to King George VI before the match.
Sunderland skipper Raich Carter presents his team to King George VI before the match.
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Last week, we began our look at mighty Sunderland’s 1937 run in the FA Cup.

It had been a tough, drawn-out run which got them there - battling through snow, mud, wind and rain and numerous replays to reach Wembley.

Bobby Gurney shooting at goal during the match.

Bobby Gurney shooting at goal during the match.

But when they got there, it was a glorious spring day which greeted the Wearsiders and their rivals Preston North End.

This week, we look at the weekend of the final and how it unfolded.

The tickets had been bought by the thousand.

Hard-working Sunderland fans paid 2 shillings and sixpence for a spot. They were full of anticipation.

With excitement running high, little sleep seemed possible when we got to bed. Everybody is up early next morning though breakfast is just one big joke. Nobody feels like having much, though we urge each other to do so, for when will we get our next meal.

Sunderland Echo reporter

And then came the long drive south, in “gaily decorated cars” and buses. There was plenty of banter, as our Sunderland Echo reporter in 1937 told us.

He set off in a party of three cars - stopping overnight at Stamford in Lincolnshire, part way to London.

Come the next morning, the pre-match nerves set in. “With excitement running high, little sleep seemed possible when we got to bed. Everybody is up early next morning, though breakfast is just one big joke.

“Nobody feels like having much, though we urge each other to do so, for when will we get our next meal.”

The fans were ready for the off, the atmosphere was electric. “Everybody is laughing and shouting, what a time we are going to have!”

There was time to have a laugh and a toot of the horn to the driver of a Binns van, who was unfortunately heading North. The match is this way, they told him.

And as the convoy got closer to London, the blasts of horns from cars got louder.

“Supporters of both sides are wandering about, rubber-necked, gazing with astonishment at the preparations and decorations which are going ahead for the Coronation.”

“They needn’t have gone to all this trouble for us,” shouts one Wearsider.

But now it was time to head for Wembley. Unfortunately, traffic was at a standstill. “Tempers and engines soon became heated. If this goes on, we won’t be there in time,” says our reporter.

But then, Wembley appears on the horizon. “As we scramble up the steps, some Jonah has to tell us that he has seen the Sunderland team arriving, and when they got off the bus they looked as pale as death,” said the Echo reporter.

Our hack heads into the stands, in a “sea of red and white.”

“Some of the rosettes are as big as dinner plates. Four rows behind us, two men are decked out in the only colours that matter. They look grand.”

As the fans settled down, they spot His Majesty meeting the players. Preston first. Burns, Gallimore, Beattie, Shankly, Tremelling the captain, Milne, Dougal, Beresford, F O’Donnell, Fagan, and H O’Donnell.

Then our lads - Johnny Mapson, Jimmy Gorman, Alex Hall, Charlie Thomson, Bert Johnston, Alex ‘Sandy’ McNab, Len Duns, our captain Raich Carter, Bobby Gurney, Patsy Gallacher, and Eddie Burbanks.

This was it. We were under way but neither team settled. Passes went astray as both sides struggled with nerves.

Preston eventually settled the quicker and their long throw-ins caused all sorts of problems.

But a series of free kicks were the dominating factor with both sides “too keen in the tackle.”

For us, Gurney went close when he swept a Burbanks centre over the bar.

Half-time beckoned and the fans were about to prepare for a goalless first 45 minutes. That’s when the worst happened.

Hugh O’Donnell collected the ball from his brother Frank, returned the favour and Hugh found the bottom corner of the net, wide of Mapson’s right hand.

It was all Preston for the last few minutes of the half and they almost increased their lead.

But Sunderland held on. They were 1-0 down, they were looking nervy. Things could only get better.

* Next week - back in it and fighting hard.