Sunderland AFC star’s league championship medal to go up for auction

Alf Common and the championship medal he won at Sunderland.
Alf Common and the championship medal he won at Sunderland.

A nine-carat gold Football League Division One championship medal awarded to a Sunderland star when the Black Cats won the league title in 1902 is set to fetch at least £5,000 next week.

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 for £1,000 – maklng him the first four-figure footballer.

Alf Common's league title medal

Alf Common's league title medal

The 1901-1902 Sunderland Football League Division One championship medal is expected to sell for between £5,000 and £7,000 in London on Tuesday, November 14.

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 still has the Priest medals in his possession.”

The medal is engraved “Sunderland A.F.C. League Champions 1901-2”.

Alf Common was born at 27 North Milburn Street, in Sunderland, on May 25,1880. He was the son of riveter Robert Ridley Common and his wife, Sarah Ann Towers.

Common played for South Hylton Juniors and Jarrow before joining Sunderland in August 1900 as a goal-scoring centre forward or outside right. 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 again, to Middlesbrough, for that 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 and later, the Alma Hotel, both in Darlington.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says Alf Common was “something of a local celebrity, in part owing to a combination of his sporting exploits and his jovial and loquacious character.His ruddy face seemed straight out of a Christmas pantomime”.

When Sunderland won the league title in 1901-1902, they won 19 of their 34 league games and ended up with 44 points.