When entering the Ashbrooke club by its main door, visitors will be aware of a blue plaque high up on the left hand side. The reason for this is the ground’s historic links with the world famous Sunderland Association Football Club (SAFC) – winner, in its time, of both the Football Association Cup and the Football League.
As noted in earlier blogs, Sunderland Cricket Club (founded 1834?) and Sunderland (Rugby) Football Club (1873) came to their new ground in Ashbrooke in 1887. Five years earlier one of the fields which was eventually to form part of the new ground, became home to Sunderland Association Football Club for a single season (1882/3). The field was known as ‘The Grove’ and may have been where the rugby pitch is today or where the hockey pitch was situated just outside the main pavilion. By the time SAFC came to Ashbrooke the association club, originally a teachers’ side, had been playing in and around the Hendon area of Sunderland for three seasons.
During the 1880s, the appearance of accounts of sporting matches in local papers was a case of ‘pot luck’. One of the main aims of the ‘Sunderland Echo’ for example was to keep folks in touch with what was happening to their loved ones working away from home on the high seas. If there was a big story in that area – such as a storm or a disaster - the matches simply did not get reported! However a number of accounts did make it into the papers covering Wearside and Tyneside – in fact enough to be able to piece together a pretty reasonable history of SAFC’s Ashbrooke season. From these accounts it is clear that the club was able to put out two sides on a regular basis and thanks to excellent research websites such as ‘The Genealogist’ it is now possible to trace many of those who played for these sides. We can thus learn about their ages, occupations, social positions as well as their abode.
EXCITING ASHBROOKE SEMI FINAL ASSURES SAFC REGIONAL FINAL IN 1883
If there is an interest in the finer details of SAFC’s season at Ashbrooke and the players
involved there is enough interesting material for future blogs. Feedback please!