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First Football Brief: Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Sunderland

A brief article highlighting some key facts and matches between Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Sunderland, especially at White Hart Lane, North London, throughout the history of football.

White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspur

White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur first faced AFC Sunderland in a second-round FA Cup tie on 11th February 1899 at the Northumberland Park ground. ‘Spurs’ won 2.1 with goals from Harry Bradshaw and John Cameron.

This would have been something of an upset at the time as, while Sunderland were playing in the Football League’s First Division, Tottenham were still playing in the Southern League. This defeat of Sunderland was the first time in the FA Cup that a lower-league club had ever come from behind to defeat a top-flight club from the Football League.

Tottenham adopted the white shirts and navy blue shorts of Preston North End – the original ‘Invincibles’ who had won the ‘double’ of FA Cup and Football League First Division in the League’s inaugural season ten years earlier, in 1888-89. The new kit obviously inspired them to greater things as they won the Southern League in 1900 and then, in 1901, became the first and only non-League club to win the FA Cup, by beating Sheffield United in the final, after a replay.

In those late nineteenth-century days, clubs would face three qualifying rounds in the FA Cup before proceeding to the first-round stage. Sunderland had won away at Bristol City 4.2 in their first round, while Tottenham had defeated the Newton Heath club (which became Manchester United just over three years later) then playing in the Second Division, 5.3 after a replay.

Tottenham lost away to another First Division side - Stoke – 4.1 in the next round and it would be nine more years before they were elected into the Second Division at the start of the 1908-09 season (in which they finished second and were promoted).

Also in 1899, Tottenham moved to a piece of disused land owned by Charrington, the brewers, on the High Road, Tottenham, which had been developed and known as the High Road ground. George Beckwith had used the site which sat behind the White Hart public house, of which he was landlord, as a garden nursery and the ground soon became known as White Hart Lane.

Sunderland had been formed three years earlier than Tottenham – in 1879 – and joined the Football League nearly twenty years earlier – in 1890-91. They played in the top flight until 1957-58 when they were relegated for the first time in their history.

The first league meeting between these two sides thus came on 1st September 1909 at Sunderland’s previous ground – Roker Park – in a First Division clash which Sunderland won 3.1.

Tottenham first faced Sunderland at home at White Hart Lane in the league in the return fixture that season, on 25th March 1910 in front of a capacity crowd of 35,000. It proved to be Tottenham’s first league win over Sunderland as the match finished 5.1, with Percy Humphreys scoring two goals for the home side. A former Chelsea player, Humphreys scored 24 goals in 45 league appearances for Spurs including one in the final match of that season, which ensured Tottenham’s survival ahead of Chelsea who were relegated.

It wasn’t until after the First World War that Tottenham beat Sunderland in the league at Roker Park; on 26th March 1921 with Jimmy Seed scoring the only goal in a 1.0 win. Ironically, Seed had been brought up in the seaside village of Whitburn, just north of Sunderland.

Roker Park, home of AFC Sunderland until 1997

Roker Park, home of AFC Sunderland until 1997

Bill Nicholson, who played for and managed Tottenham Hotspur to their 'double' success in 1961

Bill Nicholson, who played for and managed Tottenham Hotspur to their 'double' success in 1961

Tottenham have put five goals past Sunderland on five further occasions since that first home win in 1910. They matched the scoreline in a First Division match on 16th November 1968 with legendary striker, Jimmy Greaves, scoring four of Tottenham’s goals that day and Welsh international Mike England the other.

Another 5.1 victory occurred more recently, in the Premier League, on 7th April 2014 when Lee Cattermole put the ‘Black Cats’ ahead after 17 minutes before Emmanuel Adebayor equalised for Spurs and then added a second as Spurs scored four goals without reply in the second half.

Two of the five-goal hauls came in the FA Cup. On 28th January 1950 Tottenham won a fourth-round tie at White Hart Lane 5.1 (again) with striker Les Bennett and winger Sonny Walters getting two goals apiece. Tottenham lost at Everton in the next round, while close rivals Arsenal went on to win the competition that season, beating Liverpool 2.0 in the final.

Sonny Walters came up through the junior ranks at Tottenham and would go on to score 66 goals for Tottenham. He was undoubtedly one of the great Spurs players of the early 1950s. Playing alongside future managerial giants such as Bill Nicholson and Alf Ramsay, he featured in a popular Spurs supporters’ song of the time:

“We are the Spurs Supporters and we love to watch them play…

…The ref his whistle proudly blows the linesmen wave their flags,

The Duke is ready to kick off as he hitches up his bags,

We cheer Sonny Walters as he toddles down the line,

And the ball like magic is in the net and makes us all feel fine.”

‘The Duke’ referred to centre-forward Len Duquemin – also nicknamed ‘Reliable Len’ - who had arrived from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, having previously worked in a monastery’ He played alongside Walters in Arthur Rowe’s famous ‘push and run’ side of the time which lit up post-war football in England and helped Tottenham to win the league title in 1951.

Eleven years later, Tottenham were enjoying their own journey to the FA Cup Final and also First Division success as now manager Bill Nicholson’s team became the first side in the twentieth century to achieve the ‘double’ of FA Cup and League Championship wins. They faced Sunderland in the quarter-finals and, after Cliff Jones had secured a 1.1 draw for Tottenham at Roker Park, they again scored five times in the replay with goals from Les Allen, Terry Dyson (2), Dave Mackay and Bobby Smith. Smith would go on to score Tottenham’s first goal in the final, where Tottenham beat Leicester City 2.0.

Tottenham have never put six goals past Sunderland though – something Sunderland have achieved twice against Tottenham.

On 19th December 1914, three months into the First World War and in the last season before professional football was suspended, Sunderland won 6.0 at White Hart Lane in a First Division match played in front of a crowd of just 5,000.

Sunderland repeated the feat on 21st February 1934 with another 6.0 win – this time at Roker Park – and again in the First Division. The men from the poverty-stricken north-east of England were, under Scottish manager Johnny Cochrane, becoming a major footballing force. They would finish sixth in the league that year before coming runners-up to Arsenal the following season and champions themselves in 1935-36, scoring a massive 109 goals in the process. They also won the FA Cup in 1937.

The highest-scoring draw between the sides to date was a 3.3 result at White Hart Lane on 8th December 1990 with Gary Lineker scoring the first of Tottenham’s goals. One of the most thrilling matches between the sides came on Halloween - 31st October 1953 - at Roker Park, again in the First Division. Sunderland went behind twice before scoring three goals in the first seven minutes of the second-half. Sonny Walters again scored for Spurs in the 56th minute but there were no further goals and the match ended 4.3 to Sunderland.

On 18th September 2016 Spurs won 1.0 in very much a one-sided match. Harry Kane scored the winner just before the hour mark and after his team had already had 22 attempts on the Sunderland goal. 

Author: Mark Rasdall

Title: Founder, The Football Ground

Updated: 18th September 2016

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