By the 1932/33 season the FA Cup was becoming a thorn in the side of Sunderland AFC. Although we had competed in 1891, 1892, 1895 and 1931 semi finals the cloest the club had come to winning the most famous domestic club knockout trophy on the planet was the legendary 1913 final at the Crystal Palace, where our perennial bogey team, Aston Villa had once more defeated us.
However having despatched Hull City, Aston Villa and Blackpool in the 1932/33 version hopes were high that this year the cup would be ours. A battling and superb 4 v 4 draw at Derby County's Baseball Ground in the 6th round meant that Sunderland entered the Roker Park replay with high hopes of success.
For the fans excitement was fever pitch as the highest crowd ever to watch football in the North East of England took their places - by whatever means possible - on the teaming terraces of Roker Park.
Another Wembley dream shattered! Sunderland had high hopes especially after forcing a draw at Derby but at Roker Park they lacked that bit of luck necessary in Cup football. County won 1-0 after extra time and the only satisfaction Sunderland will get is financial. The crowd of 75,120 is a record for a midweek match in England and the receipts amounted to £4565. But Sunderland would rather have been in the semi-finals. It was a hard game and far from a classic with few really exciting incidents in the 120 minutes.
Sunderland deserve sympathy after having their attack disorganised by injuries. No one can say how much the mishap to Gurney (pictured left) affected the result but naturally it upset the side. The attack lost much of its sting after he got hurt in the 2nd half. Perhaps the conditions under which the game was contested affected the players but there was precious little football. The wonder was how the teams had managed to score 8 goals between them in the 1st match. There were hardly half a dozen scoring shots in the whole game.
The defensive work was of a high standard with Cooper, Barker and Nicholas prominent on the Derby side and Shaw and McDougall for Sunderland. But lack of constructive work was in a way to be held responsible for the defences keeping so tight a hold on the forwards. Too many haphazard passes, too much booting of the ball and get rid of it ideas made the game appear faster than it really was and gave the fullbacks a chance to show their driving and volleying powers.
It is easy to criticise players who being only human are bound to be affected by the presence of 75,000 people some encroaching onto the field of play but still it was a disappointing display. The quietness of the crowd in the 2nd half was in itself significant. Sunderlands misfortunes started after 15 minutes when Davis given a clear opening by Connor and Carter spooned the ball over the bar from close in. Then Gurney netted after 25 minutes and the referee initially signalled a goal before consulting a linesman and giving Gurney offside.
The centre forward did not seem to be offside when he got a through ball from Davis and put the ball into the net at the 2nd attempt. It was unfortunate that the referee who made some of questionable decisions during the game signalled a goal in the first place. Sunderland had chances in the 1st half when their halfback play was good but they did not get any in the 2nd. Undoubtedly they would have done better but for an injury to Gurney who got a nasty toss and damaged his shoulder.
He had to leave the field and though his return seemed to inspire Sunderland Gurney himself could not go in with his usual dash. It was bad tactics to send the ball up the middle for him to chase when he was physically handicapped. Later he went to the wing with Davis (pictured left) moving inside, Connor to centre forward and Gallacher at outside left. Gurney returned to the centre for part of extra time in an effort to get a goal but all in vain though Davis nearly did the trick in the last minute. Kirby though unsighted just happened to be in the way of a fierce drive.
The goal that knocked Sunderland out of the cup was a rather simple affair. Nicholas sent the ball to Crooks who crossed after a tussle and Ramage headed in just inside the near post. It was a spinner and Thorpe could not get to it. Sunderland did not give up trying, indeed they had most of the play but Derby made no mistakes in defence and did not stand on ceremony. A heavy charge on Gallacher as he ran in from the left wing to meet a cross knocked him out and he had to go off for treatment.
The circumstances pointed to dangerous play by the Derby defenders and many expected a penalty award. But it was not to be Sunderlands day and the end came with Derby winning and in the semi-final. Hundreds of people invaded the pitch and the Derby team were mobbed by their supporters. Fabian was the centre of the congratulations although on his play he was nothing out of the ordinary being less conspicuous than most of the professional players and slower going for the ball.
He put in 3 shots all near to goal and under different conditions one can visualise him making scoring openings for others but Ramage was the best inside forward. Carter worked hard for Sunderland but no one did more than McDougall who must think he is fated never to go to Wembley with Sunderland. He went up in attack after Derby had taken then lead and did everything in his power to win the match but it was not to be. Connor whose footwork is better than any of the other home players did not get the chance to get in any of his old time shots from the angle of the penalty area.
He did not get the ball in the proper way and was opposed by an uncompromising pair in Cooper and Nicholas. Nicholas is a forceful and strong halfback who was not quite as ruthless in his tackles as Collins who helped Barker considerably in blocking the middle. It needed open play and quick shooting to beat a defence like Derby’s but instead there were too many attempts at putting the middle man in possession. Keen was the most skilful Derby halfback and Duncan though better marked in the 1st game the more effective winger.
Crooks (pictured right) was over anxious and roamed about a good deal though he was responsible for Thorpe making the best save of the game when fisting a point blank shot over the bar. Kirby had more to do than the Sunderland goalkeeper but all the shots were in the air and none exploited his weakness in dealing with low shots. Edgar spoiled most of his work with poor passes and Thomson was apt to try a “classy” coolness that sometimes led to the other side getting the ball. There is distinction in this young players work but Derby had more weight and more skill.
The crowd scenes were very much like those at Newcastle when Gallagher played his 1st game there for Chelsea. Only in this case the people were never far off the touchlines and were almost bulging over it in some places. The referee had to stop the game twice to clear the lines and two balls kicked into the crowd were lost. The ground seemed to be full by 1-30 and had to be closed at 2 o’clock. People simply poured into Sunderland from all over the North East and there were many thousands locked outside the ground.
Play was started at 2-45, quarter of an hour before the advertised kick off time in order to stop the crowd becoming too restless. It was in many ways a remarkable occasion.
Sunderland: Thorpe, Murray, Shaw, Thomson, McDougall, Edgar, Davis, Gallacher, Gurney, Carter, Connor
Derby County: Kirby, Cooper, Collins, Nicholson, Barker, Keen, Crooks, Fabian, Bowers, Ramage, Duncan
Attendance: 75,118 (club and ground record)
It wasnt to be. Sunderland went crashing out of the cup and an irony was that in the Derby ranks was one Sammy Crooks from Bear Park, County Durham, the man who laid on the goal for Ramage to score the winner. Crooks, a Sunderland supporter, had been recruited by The Rams from then Football League Third Division North side Durham City. In time he would become one of the finest pre war players that England had.
For Sunderland FA Cup success was just around the corner. Another story for another day.