Sunderland AFC 1894/95 World Champions

Heats v Sunderland AFC

Painted by renowned artist Tim Fox Godden to celebrate the World Championship match between Heart of Midlothian and Sunderland AFC at Tynecastle, Edinburgh.

On 27 April 1895 Sunderland AFC, by now English Champions, travelled to Tynecastle, Edinburgh, home to then Scottish Champions Heart Of Midlothian to contest a match advertised in the capital city as “the Championship Of The World”. An 8 goal thriller resulted, with Sunderland AFC winning the game 5 v 3. This “World Championship” was probably the ultimate of the four that would be played in that it would be the only one competed for by the official league champions of each country.

The first World Club Champions were Hibernian from Scotland who triumphed over Preston North End; 2 v 1 on 13 August 1887 in Edinburgh. On 19 May 1888 Renton from Glasgow defeated West Bromwich Albion 4 v 1 in Glasgow to retain the world club crown for the Scots.

The final world championship, in this format, would occur in the 1901/02 season where Hearts finally won, defeating Spurs over two legs, 3 v 1 on aggregate; leaving Sunderland AFC as the first English world club champions and the only ever English winners of the crown, in this format.

It should be appreciated that the Scottish and English leagues were pre eminent in the world at that time. The Uruguayan Primera Division for example did not start until 1900. The Argentines however formed the earliest known football league championship outside of the UK in 1891.

FIFA would not be formed until 1904 and the first World Cup finals did not take place until 1930. Famously however, West Auckland, another North East of England side, would, in 1911, win the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, by beating Juventus. This was another unofficial world championship.

In 1960 Penarol of Uruguay played Spain’s Real Madrid in what became known as The Inter Continental Cup. These became one off games between the champions of FIFA’s most powerful confederations; CONMEBOL (South America) and UEFA (Europe). For the record Real Madrid triumphed in 1960 and thus became the first World Club Champions for 49 years.

Heart Of Midlothian 3 vs. 5 Sunderland AFC, World Championship
Tynecastle, Edinburgh, Saturday 27 April 1895
Heart of Midlothian Scorers: Taylor, McLaren, Scott
Sunderland Scorers: Johnstone, Campbell x 2, Millar, Harvie
Referee: Mr Dickson of Wishaw Attendance: 10,000

This match had an international flavour as the respective champions of England and Scotland met in Edinburgh. Unfortunately the weather was wretched for after a foggy morning a nasty drizzling rain began to fall. It did not deter spectators however for quite 10,000 turned out and they were treated to some capital football. Sunderland left home shortly after 8am and arrived in Edinburgh at 12-45. All the first team travelled including Scott and Wilson who were injured with Scott fit enough to run the line.

After lunch at the Douglas Hotel there was plenty of time to stroll round Edinburgh before the 4pm start. McCreadie was absent from the Sunderland side and Russell, Begbie and Walker from the home side. Hearts won the toss and Campbell started the game for Sunderland who were the first to show. Taylor then took play to the other end to get in a hotshot that Doig saved well. Hearts attacked again and Chalmers got the ball to Michael who had Doig leaping to a shot which he just managed to catch.

Hearts obviously meant business and set about Sunderland in capital style. Hogg robbed Hannah and sent the ball well down field but a free kick against Hearts stopped their gallop. They were soon back and Scott had a grand shot turned round the post by Doig for a fruitless corner. Auld had a sharp chance at the other end but shot hopelessly wide. Hearts swept down on the Sunderland goal and yet again Doig saved his charge. So far Sunderland had hardly been in the game whereas Hearts were at their best.

At last Sunderland came out of their shell and some grand passing ended with Millar banging in a hard shot that Fairbairn saved. Taylor took play to the visitors end again and Chambers and Michael looked very menacing until Doig kicked away. Moments later Doig was tested again with a shot from Scott. Hannah then rushed up field and centred to Campbell who banged in a stinging shot that shook Fairbairn rigid before he got the ball away. Sunderland were playing better now with Hannah and Campbell working hard.

They forced a corner that was cleared by McLaren who got the ball up to Chambers whose shot was saved by Doig. Sunderland attacked again and battles and McLaren were put under severe pressure and forced to concede a corner. When the ball was swung in Johnstone met it and sent a high shot over a crowd of players and into the net for Sunderland’s 1st goal. Sunderland dominated the play for several minutes and some bad feeling crept into the game with frequent free kicks for trips by both sides. Hearts had a look in and Gow saved splendidly after neat passing by the home side.

Sunderland swept back downfield and the home goal had another narrow escape. Hearts pushed the visitors back and Michael was inches from an equaliser when his hotshot went just wide. Johnstone was doing some grand work against the speedy Chambers and Taylor on the Hearts right wing. Hearts got a free kick but they gained little advantage from it. Sunderland attacked again and forced a corner. This was cleared but McNeill got the ball up to Dunlop who sent through to Campbell who scored a grand goal with a fast long shot.

Stung by this reverse Hearts retaliated and Doig saved splendidly just afterwards. Campbell got in a shot that Battles blocked and then Auld sent a fine shot just over the bar. Close on halftime Hearts won a free kick and Chambers and Taylor were probing the Sunderland defence when the halftime whistle went. On the restart Scott missed a chance for Hearts and then Campbell had a goal ruled out for offside. Nice work by Gillespie and Harvie took Sunderland into Hearts territory where Mirk halted their progress.

Michael and Scott tried to force a breakthrough but failed to make much impression. They struggled on however and after Michael had put a shot wide Chambers got the ball up to Taylor who scored rather easily for Hearts. Encouraged by this Hearts forced a corner off Dunlop and Baird managed to find the net but the whistle had already gone for offside. Hearts continued to press and got a free kick for a foul. McLaren took it and had a pot at goal where Doig’s fumble allowed the ball to it slip into the net off his hands.

Scenting victory Hearts put even more vigour and dash into their play and it was no surprise when Scott raced away to shoot the home side ahead. Doig stood appealing for offside and made no attempt to stop the ball. Urged on by the wild cheers of their supporters Hearts continued to press for several minutes. Sunderland wilted visibly under the pressure and their play was never poorer than at this stage in the game. Eventually they rallied and slowly forced the home side back and began to trouble the home defence.

Millar raced through and waving Campbell aside took the ball a few yards before cracking it out of Fairbairn’s reach to level the scores at 3-3. Almost from the kick off Scott ran nearly the full length of the field with Dunlop snapping at his heels to drive in a hard shot that Doig saved. A dangerous throw by Hearts was cleared as the home side tried all they knew to regain the lead. Sunderland had a brief look in but Hearts were soon back assaulting the visitor’s goal until a free kick gave Sunderland some respite.

McNeill’s long kick into the home goalmouth was perfectly judged and Campbell had only to glance the ball past Fairbairn to put Sunderland ahead. Baird and Scott retaliated for the home side but Gow and McNeill defended splendidly and they were kept at bay. A tricky run from Hannah took Sunderland well into Hearts territory where Campbell had a great chance but shot far too high. The home side were not done yet and made another spirited effort but found the Sunderland defence far too good for them.

The crowd were beginning to head for home when with only 2 minutes left Sunderland scored again. Harvie got possession near the halfway line and beat Hogg in a fine run towards goal. Fairbairn advanced but Harvie coolly slotted the ball past him to wrap things up for the visitors. The game had barely been restarted when the final whistle went.

Hearts: Fairbairn, Battles, Mirk, Hall, McLaren, Hogg, Taylor, Chamber, Michael, Scott, Baird
Sunderland: Doig, McNeill Gow, Dunlop, Auld, Johnston, Hannah, Gillespie, Harvie, Campbell, Millar, Hannah

So Sunderland were Champions Of The World and deservedly so. A Scottish reporter summed up the game thus:

“There was no comparison between the teams. Man for man, the Hearts were a point and more below their opponents and in a game in which what is termed brilliant is conspicuously absent, Sunderland only shone when there was occasion for them doing so. Confidence and a cocksure feeling of superiority were visible in everything that The wearsiders did; indecision and a sensitive knowledge of inability were the characteristics of most of the Hearts movement”.

The Echo did ask a pertinent question of the game; “by the way are there any medals for the championship of the world?”. Seemingly not as no trophy or no medals have ever been recorded as being presented to the players.

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