Remembering Sunderland’s 1937 FA Cup final win

The Sunderland team on an open-topped bus as it heads towards a civic reception.
The Sunderland team on an open-topped bus as it heads towards a civic reception.
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Was it too much to hope? Could the lads really come back from a goal down at half-time to win the FA Cup?

It was the question on the lips of every Sunderland fan as the Wearsiders trailed 1-0 to Preston North End in the 1937 final.

Raich Carter receives the Cup from Queen Elizabeth, followed by Alex Hall, Bobby Gurney and Sandy McNab.

Raich Carter receives the Cup from Queen Elizabeth, followed by Alex Hall, Bobby Gurney and Sandy McNab.

In the third and final part of our look back, we describe what happened next.

Things can only get better, as the song goes.

It could easily have applied to Sunderland, who barely showed up for the first 45 minutes at Wembley.

And they did get better. They go near to scoring when Burbanks beats his man and his cross finds Carter who heads just past the post.

But then Preston take the upper hand once more. Our reporter at the time commented: “When the equaliser comes, it takes us by surprise.

“Burbanks forces a corner and Gurney, advancing quickly from the goal to put himself onside, jumps up and heads it just under the bar. Surely the thunderous applause can be heard at Roker.”

For the next 20 minutes, both sides battled for superiority with sitters going astray.

“For a minute or two,” said the Echo reporter, “the Sunderland defence was in difficulties.

“It looked as if Sunderland had handed over the initiative once more.”

Twice, they had to get rid of threatening corner kicks and eventually got back on the attack.

“The ball came from the left to Gurney who was in the outside right position,” said the Echo reporter.

“He beat his man and sent over to Carter who, from the inside left position, sent the ball past Burns with a ground shot.

“The Sunderland captain was mobbed by his colleagues with the Sunderland supporters wild with delight.”

We were 2-1 up but could we see the match out?

The lads went one better.

Sunderland poured forward again and when Gallacher switched the play, Eddie Burbanks was on the end of it to make it 3-1.

Our correspondent adds: “It’s all over at last and Sunderland have won the Cup.

“The Preston team make a channel for Carter going up the steps to the Royal box to receive the Cup from the Queen.

“Now he is back on the field and his team mates have him shoulder high and they run off with him to the dressing room.

“Well done boys! Your great second half recovery has entitled you to be Cup-holders at long last.”

London is a blaze of red and white that night. Every restaurant is packed. “Those who haven’t booked a table are lucky to get in.”

Back home, supporters proudly read, time and again, the Football Echo “once again printed on pink paper after all those years of disappointment.

“It was on sale before 7.30pm, another great achievement of a great day.”

The journey back by car the next day is “like a Royal procession” and on the Monday, the fans show their appreciation.

The team arrives by train at Monkwearmouth station in a gleaming engine dedicated to the club by chairman Sir Walter Raine who had been so ill, he couldn’t get to Wembley.

The team tours the streets of Sunderland in an open-topped bus and see people perched precariously on window ledges.

Boys climb like flies on the girders of Wearmouth Bridge. Cinema performances are stopped because the operators are on the roof.

When the team arrives at Roker Park, more than 30,000 people are there to greet them with “an incessant roar.

Carter, Gurney and manager John Cochrane drink from the Cup and Gallacher pretends to nod in another header.

But the last word goes to our reporter who said: “The players pass out of sight to the dressing room.

“The crowd look longingly at it, but no matter how much they cheer and shout, they will not come out again.

“When shall we see their like again?”