Sunderland Profile

Major Honours English Champions (6), FA Cup winners (2)
Year Founded 1879

Sunderland AFC is an English soccer club based in the English city of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.

You may know them from the docuseries on Netflix: "Sunderland 'Til I Die", but the Black Cats' history is more illustrious than even those who have watched attentively may realise.

Sunderland were the champions of England in 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1901/02, 1912/13, and 1935/36. They are one of the most successful clubs in the history of English football.

The Mackems also won the FA Cup in 1936/37 and 1972/73. Their 1973 FA Cup win was one of the most famous in the competition's long history and as such was covered at length in the Netflix docuseries.

Sunderland early history

Sunderland were founded in 1879 and quickly established themselves as a dominant force in English football.

John Campbell was the main attraction in the famous "Team of All Talents" which dominated the Football League pyramid not long after joining its ranks. In fact, Sunderland were champions of England in 1891/92, just one season after being admitted into the Football League.

Campbell was Scottish and was one of many Scottish players in the team. Sunderland's recruitment practices left the football fraternity in Scotland outraged, so Samuel Tyzack, a wealthy miner who funded the team alongside shipbuilder Robert Turnbull, reportedly pretended to be a priest while scouting for players.

Sunderland were champions of England in 1891/92, 1892/93, 1894/95, 1901/02, 1912/13, and then again in 1935/36.

Roker Park

In 1937, Sunderland beat Preston North End at Wembley Stadium to win their first ever FA Cup title.

However, Sunderland's fortunes took a turn for the worse after the second World War. In the 1950s, they found themselves involved in a financial scandal. In 1957, they were found guilty of making payments to players which exceeded the maximum wage and were fined a total of £5,000, which at the time was a significant sum of money.

The following year, Sunderland were relegated from the top flight for the first time in their Football League history.

After being pipped to promotion by Chelsea in 1962/63, Sunderland were finally promoted back to the top flight in 1964. At the end of the decade, however, they were relegated once again.

Sunderland and 1973 FA Cup win

In 1973, Sunderland stunned Don Revie's famous Leeds United side by beating them 1-0 in the FA Cup final. At the time, the Mackems were in the Second Division, but they won against their illustrious opponents largely thanks to the goalkeeping heroics of Jimmy Montgomery.

As a result of winning the FA Cup, Sunderland qualified for the following season's UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. They were eliminated by Sporting Lisbon in the second round despite winning one leg of their two-legged tie against the Portuguese giants.

Sunderland were then promoted at the end of the 1975/76 season, but immediately relegated back down to the second tier.

Sunderland decline and rebirth

Sunderland hit a new low point when they were relegated to the Third Division of the English Football League for the very first time in their history as a club in 1987.

However, they were promoted the following season. In 1990, they were promoted to the top flight as a result of Swindon's financial irregularities, which meant their spot was vacated for the Black Cats.

Sunderland were relegated after staying up in the top flight for one year, but in 1992, they once again made the FA Cup final as a second tier side. On this occasion, they were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool.

In 1995, the possibility of another relegation to the third tier of English football loomed large, but then Peter Reid was brought in as manager and changed the club for the better.

After promotion to the Premier League in 1995/96, however, Sunderland went straight back down after a single campaign in the top flight.

In 1997, Sunderland left Roker Park, their longtime home, and moved into the Stadium of Light.

In 1999, the Black Cats finished as First Division champions with a record 105 points and were promoted to the Premier League as a result.

In 1999/2000, Sunderland finished seventh with Kevin Phillips winning the European Golden Shoe with an astonishing 30 goals. The following season, they once again finished in seventh place. They subsequently lost their midas touch and were eventually relegated again in 2003 with only 19 points.

Kevin Phillips

Mick McCarthy took Sunderland back up to the Premier League in 2005, but they were relegated once again with a new record low of 15 points in 2005/06, which was surpassed by Derby County (11 points in 2007/08).

Sunderland and Ellis Short era

The Irish Drumaville Consortium, led by former player Niall Quinn, took over in 2006 and appointed Roy Keane as manager. Keane led Sunderland back to the Premier League, but left after an inconsistent start to the 2008/09 season.

Ahead of the following campaign, Irish-American businessman Ellis Short completed a full takeover of the club. He appointed Steve Bruce as manager.

Darren Bent, Jordan Henderson and Asamoah Gyan were the star names of the first few years of the Ellis Short era, but it gradually went pear-shaped.

Bruce was sacked in November 2011, initiating an era of frequent managerial changes. Martin O'Neill was appointed as his replacement, but despite his pedigree, he only lasted until March 2013, when the controversial Paolo Di Canio was hired.

Di Canio kept Sunderland in the Premier League, but Vice Chairman David Miliband resigned as a result of Di Canio's "past political statements".

Di Canio was sacked following a poor start to the 2013/14 season and was replaced by Gus Poyet, who led them to the 2014 League Cup final, where they lost 3-1 to Manchester City.

Poyet was sacked in March 2015 and replaced by Dick Advocaat, who saved the club from relegation. Eight games into the 2015/16 season, he resigned and was replaced by Sam Allardyce, who saved them from the drop.

Sunderland relegation and stagnation

The inevitable eventually happened as Sunderland were relegated under David Moyes in 2016/17. They subsequently dropped straight down to League One in a disastrous season. In April 2018, the club was sold to a group led by Stewart Donald.

Their first season in League One ended with last-minute play-off final heartbreak against Charlton, and they tehn fell foul of the PPG method of deciding the end-of-season standings when Covid forced the 2019-20 season to finish early.

With the new regime struggling to win the Sunderland fans over and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, an ambitious 23-year-old whose family were previous owners of French giants Marseilles, bought the club in February 2021. 

They again suffered play-off disappointment in 2020/21, though, this time losing to Lincoln in the semi-finals.

One thing that has remained consistent at Sunderland is the habit of sacking managers, with Jack Ross, Phil Parkinson, and Lee Johnson all hired and fired whilst the club have been in League One.

In February 2021, former Norwich and Preston manager Alex Neil became the latest man entrusted with affecting a revival at Sunderland.

Return to the Championship

Despite Alex Neil taking over at a time when Sunderland were struggling to hold onto their play-off position in League One, the former Norwich and Preston man was able to have an immediate impact.

Appointed on February 11, Neil drew his first game and lost his second, with that defeat looking especially damaging given it came at home to promotion rivals MK Dons.

However, Sunderland then went on a remarkable 16-game unbeaten run that took them all the way through the play-offs and back into the Championship.

It was Sunderland's first success in the play-offs in seven attempts, with them beating Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-finals and Wycombe Wanderers at Wembley.

Sunderland academy

Despite recent darker times on the pitch, Sunderland are able to take a lot of pride in their academy.

Jordan Henderson, who captained Liverpool to both the Premier League and Champions League titles came through the ranks at Sunderland, as did goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Both players were important members of the England team that reached the World Cup semi-final in 2018 and the final of Euro 2020.

Sunderland fanbase

Sunderland's Stadium of Light was initially a 42,000-seater and was later increased to 49,000. On 26 December 2018, they broke the League One attendance record with 46,039 fans attending a match against Bradford City.

The strength of the Sunderland fanbase can be demonstrated by the fact they have maintained an average home attendance of more than 30,000 during their time in League One.

For the 2021/22 season, that was greater than all of the Championship and a quarter of the clubs in the Premier League, and following promotion their season card sales soared to more than 28,000. 

Sunderland rivalries

Sunderland's most famous rivalry is the Tyne-Wear derby against Newcastle United, and have a secondary rivalry with Middlesbrough.

Sunderland finances

Sunderland were in a cycle of suffering major financial losses during Ellis Short's time at the club. However, he cleared the club's debts, which were over £100million, when he sold the club.

Sunderland are believed to be largely debt-free under new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus, who has reinvested in Sunderland after the Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven, and Juan Sartori regime made large cut-backs at the club in an attempt to make it financially sustainable.

Stewart Donald, Charlie Methven and Juan Sartori remain minority shareholders of Sunderland under the new regime.

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