sunderland albion

13 March 1888 to 9 august 1892



Play Up Sunderland BadgeThe relative strength of Sunderland Albion during the season was demonstrated when on 20 April 1891 4 of their players were chosen to represent the Football Alliance against the Football League.

Stoke (7 votes) proceeded back into the Football League along with Darwen (7 votes). Both were successful in the end of season Football League voting system. Sunderland Albion dropped out of the Football Alliance. The 3 places were taken by Burton Swifts, Ardwick Manchester (Manchester City) and Lincoln City.

Albion’s reached the last 16 of the FA Cup and it took Nottingham Forest 3 games, the final one played at the neutral Bramall Lane venue, to eliminate Albion.  Ironically Sunderland AFC drew Nottingham Forest in the quarter final, defeated them 4 v 0 but were eliminated themselves by Notts County in the semi final, again ironically played at Bramall Lane. Notts County lost to Blackburn Rovers in the final played at The Oval. Sunderland ended 7th in their first league season, not helped by a 2 point deduction for playing the legendary goalkeeper Ted Doig, who was also registered with another club. In January 1891, Albion’s Jimmy Hannah had signed for Sunderland AFC. In doing so he became the only man ever to move in that direction.







With the close of April the Albion Club have wound up their third season, and in such a manner as cannot but give satisfaction to their supporters. In previous annual reviews we have had occasion to refer to the “hard lines” experienced by the club during particular seasons. While there has been a recurrence of the ill luck during the season just ended, it has not been so marked as to demand special attention. The greatest hardship the executive had to deal with was to have to send the team through the qualifying rounds of the English Cup competition. For this five Saturdays had to be set apart, a proceeding, which considerably disarranged the regular card.

Founder James AllanIt is only fair to state that the club kept the dates open, but had it not been for the competition Albion would not have had to play so many matches in April in order to complete the ordinary engagements. Albion have played fewer special matches during the past season than ever, mainly owing to the extra cup ties and the Northern League. They have played no less than 36 games for points, and finished in a good place, viz., second in the Alliance and third in the Northern League, with a total of 47 points. In addition to this, the Albion have the best goal average amongst the 20 clubs of the two combinations.

 The Albion team are the only team of note in the country that have gone through the season without once tasting the bitters of defeat on their own ground. In spite of all their achievements the Albion Club have not got a trophy to show as a result of their exertions. After playing drawn games with Notts Forest in the national contest they were beaten by the Nottingham Club at Sheffield by 5 to 0. Next the Hendonites turned their attentions to the Alliance, and so well did they play that up to the last week of the contest they had first honours, and were regarded as certainties for the championship flag.

However a couple of successive defeats spoiled their chance, and they had to content themselves with second place, as against third last season. Owing to various causes, their show in the Northern League was not so good as it would otherwise have been: they only managed to secure third place, with the best goal average in the competition. The Albion team did not suffer a defeat in September, while in October they were twice beaten, besides having one drawn game. At the end of November the defeats had been increased to 3, as had the drawn games. At the end of the first half of the season the record was as follows: -

WON, 16;   LOST 3;   DRAWN, 4;   GOALS FOR, 81; AGAINST, 29

The month of January was productive of no fewer than 5 drawn games and 1 defeat, while in February Albion had another defeat and 3 drawn games, March saw them once beaten with another draw, and in the month just ended no fewer than 5 defeats were sustained – the largest number for any month of the season.

As in other clubs, there have been many changes in the composition of the Albion team. They started the season with several new men viz., Bob Roberts, an International goalkeeper, who replaced J.Angus, now of Everton; J Rae and P.McCracken, of Third Lanark; Rob McFarlane, Bootle; Crozier, Boyd, and King. The other players at the early portion of the season were: - McLellan, Kinnaird, Weir, Boyd, J Smith, and Young. The first to leave the club was Young, who returned to his home in Scotland. Next Weir and Kinnaird recrossed the border for their homes in Dunblane, and finally Boyd and Smith were dispensed with, and their fares paid to Glasgow by the executive.

W Wardrop was engaged to take the place of Young as centre half, and he soon proved himself a decided acquisition to the club. Crozier was booked and duly arrived, then came J.Oswald from Burnley, and last but not least, Gillespie, to fill the place of Boyd (centre forward). J.Moore, late of the first team and a prominent member of the reserve, was requisitioned, and a good hard working substitute he has been. The forward division has almost always been the weak spot in the team and it is in that rank where all the changes, with the exception of one, have taken place. Two other forwards were also obtained, Niven and Kilcoin, but after a short stay decamped, leaving no trace behind them.

With the close of the season, several more new faces will have to be brought to fill vacancies. Roberts is going back to his native place (West Bromwich), and will set up the boniface within a mile of the Birmingham suburb, and close to the “Throstles” ground. He has practically retired from the arena from which he has gained so many laurels, as though he will sign on for the West Bromwich Albion, it will just be to assist that club in case of need. The Hendon club have secured a successor to the burly Bob, in the person of J.Robertson, who gave a creditable exhibition when acting for the 93rd Highlanders in the cup tie with Albion.

He is a soldier, and entered the Army Reserve a couple of months ago. He has signed for Albion for two seasons. R.McFarlane has signed to play for Newton Heath next season, and, though we have not heard of a successor being secured, we understand that the committee have their eye upon a good man for the position. Rae, the captain, remains with the Albion, as also do the halves, King, Wardrop, and McCracken. J.Hannah, after playing for the club a couple of seasons, leaves to join the Sunderland team, with whom he has signed for two seasons. J.Oswald, W.Crozier, J.Gillespie, S.McLellan, and J.Moore remain with the Hendon Club, and two forwards from Third Lanark (Glasgow) have signed and have been registered to play for Albion during the next season.

The other players who have figured in the Albion ranks are Newberry, an old Corinthian forward, located at St Oswald’s College, Tynemouth, and George Millar, now of Middlesbrough. The former assisted for several matches, and did good service. Millar only appeared in one or two at the early part of the season. Albion have had their share of cup ties. They entered for the Durham Cup but left the ties to be played by the Reserves. The later were put out by Sunderland “A” (Sunderland Reserves). The Football Association did not include Albion in its 18 entered for the English Cup, and they were compelled to fight through the qualifying stages.

We are very glad to notice that their claims to be exempted from the preliminary rounds next season have been recognised by the powers that be. Albion opened their cup tie engagements with a match against Gateshead N.E.R. at Gateshead. The visitors won by 8 to 2. In the next round they had a bye, owing to Whitburn scratching. Next they defeated Newcastle West End by 3 to 0 and in the fourth round they were drawn against Newcastle East End. This match took place at Heaton and ended in a draw of two goals each. In the ordinary course the tie would have been replayed at Hendon the following Saturday, but Albion having an Alliance fixture on that day could only get the tie postponed to the succeeding week and on the condition that it was replayed on the East End ground.

This was accordingly done, and Albion making no mistake this time won by 3 to nil. Scarcely was the tie concluded when rumours of an intended protest were afloat. The allegations were that some of the Albion team had played in other than their own club’s matches. The matter however, ended in smoke, and Albion were recompensed for the outlay they had been put to. Albion’s next appearance was in the competition proper, when they were drawn against the 93rd Highlanders. The tie was played at Hendon the home team winning the by 3 to nil. In the second round (Last 16) they were drawn against Notts Forest at Hendon. The teams had met twice before and on each occasion a draw was the result. When the teams met in the competition, Albion led by a goal to nothing until three minutes from time. The “Reds” then equalised with a lucky shot. Extra time was played, but nothing further followed, the teams leaving the field after two hours play with only 1 goal each. They next met on the Forest ground, and a half time the “Reds” were leading by 2 to 0. On changing ends the second half was keenly contested, the whistle blowing with the score 2 each. Again was extra time ordered, and again was no definite result arrived at, nothing more being scored. The decider took place at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Notts had the benefit of a strong wind, and scored 5 in the first half. After the cross over they played a defensive game, and though Albion tried hard they failed to score, and were beaten by 5 to 0.

This was the first time that Albion had reached the second round of the competition proper. Albion have done a lot of heavy scoring during the present season, but have only once reached double figures. That was against Walsall, at Hendon, in an Alliance engagement, when the home team won by 11 to 1. This is the highest win yet recorded in the Alliance. Next to this comes the 8 to 0 win over the Birmingham St George’s, 8 to 1 over the London Caledonians, 7 to 0 Crewe, and 8 to 2 Gateshead N.E.R. Their number of drawn games – 13 – is remarkable, and ranks as one of the largest for a single club. In the two previous seasons they only played 12 draws.

That the defence of Albion is good will be understood from the fact that on no fewer than 15 occasions did they prevent goals being scored against them, while the forwards only in seven matches, failed to score at all. Their heaviest defeats have been: - Glasgow Rangers, 1-5; Darwen, 0-5; Notts Forest, 0-5; and Middlesbrough 0-3. Albion have won 18 matches at Hendon and drawn 6. From home they have won 9, lost 11, and drawn 7. Their most important matches in the Alliance were the two draws with Stoke and Notts Forest. At that time Albion, Stoke and Notts Forest were far and away the best in the Alliance, and it says much for the consistency of the three that none could get over the other more than by a goal.

Older James AllanThat happened in the case of Notts v Stoke, when the latter scored a win, but Albion’s four games were all left drawn. Albion have lost fewer games than last season, and their goal difference is also much better, despite the fact that the have played three times as many drawn games. As to the start of the month of May we find that Albion have played even more matches than during the proceeding season, and only 3 less than in 1888-9. The average number of matches per month was a little over 6, this large total being kept up with holiday and night fixtures. The largest number played in any month was 8 in March and in April, 5 being the smallest (February).

With the exception of March 14th, Albion have played a match every Saturday throughout the season. At the close of last season the club was formed into a limited company. A number of influential gentlemen came forward and formed the directorate, and their first season has been wound up most satisfactorily. The club’s temporary offices were at that time in St Thomas Street, but these were vacated for 67 John Street, where the business of the club has been carried on since. The want of a permanent secretary was sorely felt, and it was decided to advertise for one.

From a number of applicants Mr John Bird, of the Manchester and District Association, was selected, and he entered upon his duties in the first month of the season. He has now retired from the office, and it is probable that a successor will be appointed ere another season comes round. Albion concluded their season with a match against Ironopolis on Wednesday night at Middlesbrough. The visitors were without Hannah and McFarlane the former’s place being filled by Millar, and the latter’s by Wardrop. Lawson took Wardrop’s place on the half-back line. Albion ultimately retired defeated by 4 to 1. It is rather curious that Albion have not won a match on Teesside this season.



For the 1891/92 season Albion dispensed with competing in the Football Alliance due to the expense, and entered the Northern League only. To raise much needed finance, Sunderland Olympic played at The Blue House Field when Albion were away.

Once more Albion had been eliminated from the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest. However more serious for Albion was at the start of the campaign. Although the Football League had been increased to 14 clubs Albion mustered only 1 vote in their attempt to gain entry for the 1891/92 version and therefore failed again.

By now the writing was on the wall for Albion. What didn’t help, according to John Grayston, was the Albion Committee losing a week’s income, which started to indicate that all was not well with the administration of the club. Struggling financially they would play, and be hammered by, Sunderland twice more: Sunderland 6 v 1 Sunderland Albion - 18 April 1892 & Sunderland Albion 0 v 8 Sunderland 27 April 1892.



Albion again applied to join the Football League for the 1892/93 season. However the day before the league meeting to vote new clubs into the league structure the Committee of Sunderland Albion met to wind up the club (see next page). Reluctantly therefore Sunderland Albion admitted defeat, withdrew their Football League application, and folded.

In understanding why they folded we must return to the original backers of the team – the Hartley’s. The Wear Glass Company, that in effect bank rolled Albion, endured a labour strike of some 18 months which crippled the company.

As Hartley and the Glass Works was the major backer of Sunderland Albion, to the tune of £3k, the backing went AWOL, as a result of the strike. The company folded and, in effect, took Sunderland Albion with it.

James Allan’s dream was over.

Sunderland Albion had hard lines when you think that of the original 12 Football Alliance clubs only 3, including Albion, had not gone on to gain entry into the Football League.

In the end Sunderland AFC proved too much of an adversary.





The annual general meeting of the shareholders of the Sunderland Albion Athletic Company Limited was held at the Empress Hotel, Union Street, last night. Capt. T.W Pinkney (president) occupied the chair, and there was a good attendance. The balance sheet, a summary of which appeared in our columns yesterday, was read and adopted. At the conclusion of the general meeting an extraordinary one was held for the purpose of considering the following proposal: -

‘That the company be wound up voluntarily under the companies’ act 1867 and that liquidators be appointed for the purpose of said winding up.

The proposition was agreed to amid many manifestations of regret, and Capt. Pinkey was thanked for the valuable assistance he had rendered the company. Mr John Parker was appointed liquidator and Messrs R.White, J.Allen and Metcalf, were chosen as a consulting committee to assist Mr Parker with the winding up. The meeting shortly afterwards terminated.



115 years has passed since the demise of Sunderland Albion and from a distance its hard not to feel sorry for not only the club but James Allan in particular.

It seems evident that Allan was a passionate man when it came to his football and in founding Sunderland AFC we have a debt to the Scotsman, irrespective of how the rivalry between Albion and Sunderland AFC was conducted.

However the ultimate point is that even in those far off days The People’s Game revolved around money and power. Sunderland AFC had it; Sunderland Albion didn’t have enough of it.

Sunderland AFC knew that if they persevered and starved Albion of money they would eventually succumb to what, at times, was nothing short of a deliberate campaign by SAFC to eliminate the competition. Quite simply the Town wasn’t, in the eyes of Sunderland AFC, big enough to support 2 clubs.

As we know Sunderland AFC prospered, became a major force, pre war, in the English game and is still today a much respected and much loved football club.

It’s exciting to sit back and think what might have been had Albion become a force in the game and enjoyed a rivalry with Sunderland AFC. As a final question you can’t help but ponder this. If Sunderland Albion had survived alongside Sunderland AFC, until the present time; I wonder which of the two we would, individually, be supporting now.

Play Up Albion?

Back to the top