MORE than 40,000 Sunderland fans turned London red and white last weekend, but they came home empty handed as Portsmouth won the Checkatrade Trophy at Wembley on penalties.

To help the healing process, let’s look back on happier times with some remarkable photographs recently unearthed by the Echo’s former photographer, Ian Wright, who now lives in Las Vegas. They show the May day in 1937 when Sunderland won the FA Cup for the first time ending 53 years of hurt.

Sunderland were formed in 1880. Perhaps their heyday was at the end of the 19th Century when they won the league title four times in a decade. The FA Cup, first contested in 1872, eluded them, their only appearance in the final coming in 1913, in front of 121,919 people at Crystal Palace when they lost a brutal encounter against Aston Villa 1-0 – it was so brutal that because of the style of their play, Sunderland were not invited to take part in the annual Charity Shield match which traditionally opens the next season with the cup winners playing the league winners.

The 1930s were another golden era for the Black Cats, managed by Joe Cochrane and captained by Raich – short for Horatio – Carter, perhaps their best ever player.

They won their sixth, and last, league title in 1935-36, and the following season, reached the FA Cup final to play against Preston North End.

On the eve of the match, The Northern Echo told how 7,000 Sunderland fans were going to London on special excursion trains to paint the town red and white. The team and directors led the way on a special four-coach train pulled by a B-17 engine named Sunderland, which was festooned with red and white ribbons. The LNER had decorated the inside of the carriages in red and white and even placed red and white flowers on the luncheon table.

The B-17 engine was one of 53 made at Darlington’s North Road works during the first half of the 1930s. They were named after English country homes and top flight football teams, starting with Arsenal and Sheffield United, including Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and ending with Manchester City and West Ham.

Oh, and the fourth footballer class B-17 was named after little Darlington. The story goes that the North Road enginemen got tired of building B17s with other teams’ names on and they took hostage an engine that was intended to be called Manchester City. The refused to release it until management agreed to name it Darlington FC, and so in April 1936, engine No 2852 proudly steamed out of the works bearing the Quakers’ name and colours around a golden football.

No 2854 was Sunderland which took the Black Cats to Wembley.

The Echo’s pre-match coverage also included the publication of the Wembley pitch divided into numbered squares so that BBC radio listeners could follow the action at home.

For the BBC’s first football broadcast on January 22, 1937 – Arsenal versus Sheffield United – it had devised the grid so that the commentator could describe the action while a fellow in the box with him would bellow the number of the square in which the action was taking place.

This is claimed to be the derivation of the phrase “back to square one”, although as this wasn’t seen in print until 1952, there must be another origin.

By 1931, the BBC were broadcasting 100 radio commentaries a year, but the Football League became concerned that, in the depths of the Great Depression, attendances at grounds were falling. It blamed the radio, and so in June 1931, it banned the broadcasts and they were not resumed until after the Second World War.

However, the Football Association allowed FA Cup finals to continue to be broadcast and, with Sunderland at Wembley, the North-East tuned in avidly.

“Attendances at May Day meetings on Saturday in the North-East were in many instances severely affected by the Cup final at Wembley, many people preferring to listen to the broadcast report on the match than hear politic speeches,” said the Echo the following Monday.

“An unusual lack of interest was taken in the May Day celebrations at Crook. Football enthusiasts stayed at home to hear the broadcast of the Cup final, while others took advantage of the fine weather and attended a cricket match between Crook and Easington.”

It must have been well worth a listen. Preston took the lead during a sluggish first half only for Sunderland to fight back with a scintillating 45 minutes of stylish, attacking play to win 3-1, with their goals coming from Bobby Gurney, Raich Carter and man-of-the-match Eddie Burbanks.

The Echo said: “Sunderland’s triumph came on what may be termed the greatest occasion in the history of the game – in Coronation Year, in the presence of the King and Queen.”

After a joyful night of celebrations in the capital, cup and team came home pulled once more by the Sunderland engine to a rapturous reception, as Ian’s photograph of the scene at Newcastle central station shows.

Sunderland 1937: Johnny Mapson, Jimmy Gorman, Alex Hall, Charlie Thomson, Bert Johnston, Alex “Sandy” McNab, Len Duns, Raich Carter, Bobby Gurney, Patrick Gallacher, Eddie Burbanks. Manger: Johnny Cochrane.

IAN WRIGHT gets in touch from across the ocean in response to the article in Memories 411 about February 9, 1968, when Freddie and the Dreamers played at the annual Press Ball at the Baths Hall in Darlington’s Gladstone Street. Ian was on the committee, of largely employees of The Northern Echo, which organised the evening and raised a record £400 for local charities – that’s about £7,000 in today’s prices, according to the Bank of England’s Inflation Calculator.

He has a picture of them, together with Freddie, counting the money.

Ian Martin also got in touch because he has something far more tangible, and drinkable, as a reminder of that night.

“My late father, John “Jock” Martin worked at the Baths Hall for years after he stopped working for the railways,” he says. “He got me autographs of a lot of the bands that played there along with the famous wrestling stars who visited – my autograph books have got Mick McManus, Billy Two Rivers, Giant Haystacks and Vic Faulkner in.

“I vividly remember him working on the night that Freddie and the Dreamers played because he won a bottle of Champagne in the raffle which he kept and said it was to be opened on my 21st birthday.

“We never did, and so then it was being kept until I got married, but we never opened it then.

“In fact, it is still unopened. Every house we’ve moved into this damned bottle of Champagne has moved with us.

“It gets turned regularly but it will probably taste like vinegar by now.”

It could be bad enough to turn the Dreamers into screamers.