It is more than likely that the events surrounding the 1942 War Cup Final between Sunderland and Wolves has been reduced to cult status, such is the paucity of information surrounding it.
It seems to have been generally forgotten that football was played during WW2 and after defeating Oldham Athletic, both Bradford teams; City & Park Avenue, then Scunthorpe in the semi final the red and whites won the right to play Wolverhampton over two legs, the first at Roker Park, for the 1942 War Cup. This was, in effect, the FA Cups that never were.
The Football League imposed minimum prices of 1 shilling and sixpence and 1 shillings for members of the Armed Forces and Boys. Furthermore the Roker End was unavailable because of wartime use.
Sunderland’s poor home form for the season continued as the first leg ended 2 v 2. Albert Stubbins, a Newcastle United player guested for Sunderland (he was a Shipyard Draughtsman in the Town) and he scored in the first leg, along with Carter as we can now read:
A great second half revival by the Sunderland forwards at Roker Park should have sent them into the second leg of the League War Cup Final at Wolverhampton next Saturday with a lead. Indeed they worthily held it until the last few minutes when in a breakaway Wolves equalised at 2 v 2. Even then Sunderland had their chances to win the game and once Stubbins hit the goal post with a shot that rebounded into the keeper’s hands.
But a crowd estimated at 32,000 could not have been impressed by Sunderland’s early play and something much better in defence, particularly by Gorman, is required for the final test against a nippy Wolves attack.
The latter were always more speedy and accurate in all their football in the first half and a goal by Westcott in 11 minutes and subsequent superiority for most of the play to half time suggested a final score well in their favour.
In defence too they were the sounder, especially at centre half and left half, where Galley and Dorsett stood out prominently, but Sunderland had only themselves to blame for not scoring in the first half. The forwards seemed slow to the ball and when the openings came often finished poorly.
The second half showed them in far better light, with Carter and Stubbins chiefly foraging and both shooting almost on sight. There was also an improvement in the winger’s play and Housam was splendid at right half. It was chiefly due to this trio that the Wolves in the second half were outplayed, as they had, they admitted, not been in previous ties.
Carter had equalised in nine minutes with a half volley and Stubbins in the 77th minute gave Sunderland a richly deserved lead, but when it was thought they had won the game Westcott in a break down in the middle saved the game for the Wolves.
The brightest of the Wolves forwards was young Stevenson at inside left, but Mullen and Westcott were the most dangerous in finishing and when the home side had settled down to their real game in the second half all the forwards did well.
Sunderland: Heywood, Gorman, Eves, Housam, Hewison, Hastings, Spuhler, Stubbins (Newcastle United - 1), Whitelum, Carter (1), Robinson (Charlton Athletic)
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Sidlow, Robinson, Dowen (Hull City), Thornhill, Galley, Dorsett, Broome (Aston Villa), McIntosh, Westcott (2), Stevenson, Mullen
Attendance: 34,776 Receipts: £3,233
Getting to the second leg in the Midlands wouldn’t be plain sailing for those Sunderland fans to wanted to go as on 1 June 1942 the Sunderland Echo reported that:
“Sunderland supporters on their way to Wolverhampton for the (War) Cup Final had the experience of being under machine gun fire from the air in the early hours of Saturday morning. Between 60 and 70 Wearsiders were passengers on a train which it is thought was the target of a Nazi hit and run raider which swooped on the station of a North East Town…bullets were heard splattering on the station roof and on the track, no one was injured and the train continued on its journey”. The passengers reckoned that the plane was no more than 100 feet from the ground. Due to reporting restrictions the name of the railway station was not allowed to be published, however locals knew it was Newcastle Central Station.
...and here's me whinging about going to Millwall in the 1970's!
For the first half hour Sunderland were a more impressive side than Wolverhampton Wanderers in the second leg of the League War Cup final. They kept the ball moving briskly with Carter as elusive as usual, providing Sidlow with some severe tests. Fortunately for the Wolves the Welshman was at his best and repeatedly saved in brilliant style.
Wolves had fewer chances but were always dangerous when Westcott got moving and it was this player who opened the scoring and set the Wolves on the way to victory. It was McIntosh who was the arch schemer and he started this goal as he did two of the others but he missed a fairly easy chance himself.
Wolves held their slender 1 v 0 lead at half time, but within six minutes Broome sealed Sunderland’s fate with a grand goal right into the corner and taken with deliberate aim.
Carter’s goal seven minutes later was really due to the good work of Stubbins but any possibility of a Sunderland revival disappeared within a minute when Rowley took a square pass from Mullen to restore Wolves’ advantage, and he added a fourth at the end of 70 minutes, though in the meantime both Mullen and Broome had struck the framework of the goal.
The Sunderland defence, though heavily outplayed at times in the second half, was always a workmanlike formation and in the forward line Robinson and Carter were the better wing.
Stubbins only rarely came into the limelight and both Whitelum and Spuhler were too heavily shadowed to cause much trouble. Wolves were deservedly winners but Sunderland were game losers.
The crowds swarmed over the pitch at the finish for the presentation of the Cup to Galley and War Savings Certificates to all the players instead of medals. The presentation was made by Mr. WC Cuff of the Football League.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Sidlow, Dowen, Taylor, Robinson, Galley, Dorsett, Broome (1), McIntosh, Westcott (1), Rowley (Manchester United - 2), Mullen
Sunderland: Heywood, Gorman, Eves, Housam, Hewison, Hastings, Spuhler, Stubbins, Whitelum, Carter (1), Robinson
Attendance: 43,038 Receipts: £4,552
The second leg was a damp squib for Sunderland who lost to Wolves 1 v 4 with Carter scoring Sunderland’s solitary goal.
One bone of contention with the final was the bonus paid to the players for the two legged affair. Although the matches produced gate receipts of some £8,000 only £135 was distributed amongst the players; £72 in wages and £63 in War Savings.
So there we have it, the 1942 War Cup Final now retold after all those years.