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City did not learn from a 60 year old failed 'Project'

“The more things change the more they remain the same” is a saying which has been around since Adam was a boy. I have no idea where it originally came from but it’s difficult to argue against the truth in it. An entry in the Sunderland Fan Blog which explains how all the grand plans of a club that became known as “The Bank of England” came so close to ending in disaster will send shivers up and down the spine of Manchester United’s cross town rivals and raise questions whether history may be on the verge of repeating itself.

It’s obviously much too early to make any meaningful predictions but although we are talking about another era, indeed, an entirely different world, the similarities between Sunderland’s determined attempt to ‘buy’ a championship in the early 1950’s and the efforts of Manchester City to do the same today are eerily uncanny.

The famous Wearside club had been crowned First Division Champions in the 1935-36 season and won the FA Cup the following year but had won nothing else since. Arch rivals Newcastle United had meanwhile twice lifted the FA Cup in the 1950-1951 and 1951-1952 seasons at a time when it meant far more than it does today. Sunderland were therefore desperate to match their neighbors success and left no stone unturned in their efforts to bring the Championship back to Roker Park. This is how the Sunderland Fan Blog recorded those events from half a century ago.

Before the 1953-54 season there was a flurry of transfer activity leading to Sunderland being dubbed the ‘Bank of England Club’. Nine players arrived for a total fee of £70,000. These included Jimmy Cowan from Morton (£8,000), Ray Daniel from Arsenal (£27,000) and Billy Elliott from Burnley (£26,000).

It was believed that these three players alongside the current stars would end the bad days at Roker. Other players signed included Joe McDonald from Falkirk and Ken Chisholm from Cardiff. The Board even tried to sign Jackie Milburn from Newcastle but were snubbed despite Milburn’s interest in a move to link up with his old pal Len Shackleton (pictured)

Many clubs were becoming envious of Sunderland and the club became the target of abuse from others who were saying that Sunderland’s financial spending was too excessive and harmful to the game. Every team throughout the country wanted to beat Sunderland – similar to Liverpool 70’s 80’s and Manchester United 90’s 00’s.

Amazingly Sunderland lost 4 of their 5 opening games. They had no problem scoring but couldn’t stop conceding goals as well. After 10 games Sunderland had just 7 points from a possible 20. Another three defeats followed, including a hammering by Preston 6-2 and the lads were bottom of the table. Trevor Ford was sold to Cardiff for a fee of £30,000.

Stories from older supporters suggested that Ford and Shackleton struggled to get on with each other and this caused a rift within the team. Not put off by signing players Sunderland purchased Ted Purdon from Birmingham for a fee of £15,000. Sunderland escaped relegation by the smallest of margins by drawing 0-0 away to Middlesbrough, beating Sheffield United 3-1 and Burnley 2-1 in their last three games of the season. Other teams around them failed to pick up enough points and Sunderland were safe.

As it turned out, Sunderland made a comeback of sorts the following year finishing in fourth position one point ahead of Manchester United but the revival was short lived. The club was relegated to the second division in 1957-58 and as the Sunderland blog put it “After 68 years continuous membership of the Football League’s top flight The Black Cats bowed out of the 1st division. We didn’t know it then, but it would be 40 years before our rehabilitation was complete and we were in a position to compete with the best in England.

Just like Manchester City decided to create it’s recent ‘Project’ to bring silverware to the club, Sunderland had it’s own sixty years ago which sadly ended in abject failure. Without wanting to appear as if the same fate is wished upon our friends at Eastlands, ‘The Bank of England’ story is yet another example that long term success cannot simply be bought. It needs to be nurtured over a long period of time…just like Manchester United has done since the early days of Sir Matt Busby.

Is the splashing of millions the best way to get success?


13 Responses to “City did not learn from a 60 year old failed 'Project'”

  1. Fredster says:

    With top notch articles like this and the Jesper Olsen feature yesterday, I think I’ll be visiting your blog more often in future. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  2. Chris Boyle says:

    Calling Sunderland a ‘Tyneside Club’ is the equivalent of calling Man Utd a Merseyside outfit. Barring that gaffe the rest of the article is quite good. However Man Utd have not been shy of flashing the cash in the past, and there was a period that Liverpool went through of buying up descent players just to have them on the bench or in the reserves so no one else could have them.

    As for buying silverware, it worked at Chelsea although at the cost of some horrendous payouts and flops, and managers, and a universal loathing etc,etc.
    City are replicating that approach admirably.

    Chris Boyle, Sunderland

  3. jeff stoddart says:

    Len Shackleton put it succinctly in his book “Clown prince of soccer” he said. “The best 11 footballers do not necessarily maker the best football 11”. I think it says it all .

  4. David Hardy says:

    Sunderland is on the River Wear – not the Tyne.

  5. David Mackay says:

    Good article – apart from the major offence of calling Sunderland a Tyneside club. We are Wearside!

    Its even worse than calling people from Sunderland “Geordies”. Some would allow that but the majority would say we are Mackems.

    I also remember City in the 70s under Malcolm Allison trying to buy success with big money signings like Kaziu Deyna. Sunderland went to Maine Road and thrashed them 4-0

  6. Fergie is God says:

    money doesnt buy you success

    * Blackburn spent a fortune and only got 1 premier lge title before getting relegated 3 yrs later.
    * Newcastle spent £100m in the 1990’s to try and win trophies and won nothing.
    * Leeds spent big to try and become a force and ending up in ruins before getting relegated and have not come back.
    * Aston Villa, Tottenham have both spent big money and have done nothing.

    * Chelsea is a rare case of a small club who spent massive amounts of cash to successfully buy success as they have spent over £450m in just 7 yrs and last I knew their sugar daddy had pumped around £700m into the club.

    *Man City sugar daddy has spent around £450m on players and £1.08b in total to try and buy their way out of being the nobody small club they are to a successful one and i know it will fail as they have so far failed at every target they have set since his takeover, City are a small club and that will never change.

    ***Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United has only spent £448m in Fergie’s 24 yrs at the club and only 4 times have we spent over £20m on a player (28.1m Veron, 29.1m Ferdinand, 27m Rooney, 30.75m Berbatov) and broke the british transfer record like only 6 times and have never spent massive amounts of cash in a transfer market, Fergie has bought reasonably and have always preferred to develop his own players though the youth system. we have earned everything we have ever won though hard work, determination and dedication whiles others try to buy glory because they dont cant earn it and dont deserve it.

  7. Mackem2010 says:

    ‘Tyneside Club’..FFS, do your research pal…Geography not your strong point ????

    Other than that, interesting read.

    Hawaaaaaaaaaay !!! :=)

  8. Fergie is God says:

    I forgot Liverpool who have spent the last 20 yrs trying to buy success and under rafa benitez spent £250m in his 6yrs which was more than us by the way scousers and he won next dooor to nothing…..Liverpool have spent around £450m in last 18 yrs in an failed attempt to buy dominance.

    * Arsene Wenger has spent around £240m in his 14 yrs at Arsenal to which the club has spent £300m in last 18yrs.

    * now there is Birmingham trying to buy success which is funny as they are nothing and wont achieve anything and Blackburn are in talks with a new owners who is planning to try and buy success with a £100m budget set straight away.

    what ever happened to the days when clubs would try and earn success, now so many small clubs try to buy it because they are crap and dont deserve nothing.

  9. Fergie is God says:

    I already know the bitters tried to buy success in the 70’s, they throguht they was gonna rule the world and did nothing and yet here they are talking again whiles again doing nothing.

    bout time Man City faces the fact they are a small club that will foreve be in our shadow.

    pathetic little bitter rags of wastelands, relegation is their next stop.

    Man City – 2010 version of leeds Utd…..Relegation and bankrupcy looms.

  10. Frank Scicluna says:

    It looks like you folks are owed an apology. For whatever reason, I have always regarded Sunderland as being in the same geographical area as Newcastle. It was confirmed in my mind by the following entry on which states that “it is a concise guide to Tyneside and Tyne & Wear covering Newcastle Upon Tyne, Gateshead, North Shields, South Shields and parts of Sunderland.”

    You guys obviously see things in a different way so I bow to your superior knowledge.

  11. Michael says:

    Tyne & Wear is the area between Newcastle (Tyneside) and Sunderland (Wearside). It generally comes under due to some of the post codes in Tyne & Wear are the same as Newcastle – NE. Technically speaking though, SAFC should be referred as a Tyne & Wear club as it does sit between the Tyne & Wear but the less we have to do with Tyneside the better really!

  12. Georgethemackem says:

    Some more geography for you Frank. Sunderland is the biggest City between Leeds and Edinburgh. Newcastle being the 2nd biggest.

  13. Frank Scicluna says:

    Thanks to the many posters who pointed out the error, SAFC is now referred to in the article as a Wearside club rather than Tyneside!



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