James Allan arrived in Sunderland to take up a post at Hendon Board School on 1st April 1879. He probably enrolled with Sunderland and District Teachers' Association at their quarterly meeting in September 1879; he would soon introduce them to Association Football, which was new to a town for which only the Rugby code was played at the time. It took a year of kickabouts in the school yards, and probably the introduction of the Northumberland and Durham Challenge Cup (in the summer of 1880), to persuade the teachers to form their own team.

Sunderland and District Teachers' Football Club formalised their existence at a meeting in Rectory Park School on Saturday 25th September 1880. They immediately rented The Blue House Field at Hendon to train and host matches, but soon had trouble with numbers, being restricted only to teachers. Within a month (after a practice session on 16th October 1880) - and before they ever played a match - they opened up the club to anyone who was interested, and renamed themselves Sunderland Association Football Club. Sunderland AFC's first match was at the Blue House Field on Saturday 15th November 1880, a 1-0 defeat to Ferryhill.

Matches were very much local at this time, and mostly friendlies. Sunderland did enter the Northumberland and Durham Challenge Cup, reaching the Semi-Finals before bowing out to Newcastle Rangers at St.James Park; it would be several years later before Newcastle United, or even their predecessors East End and West End, played there. Nationally (or anywhere at all, for that matter), there were no Association Football leagues in existence, but the FA Cup was well established, having started in 1871-72. The FA Cup remained the preserve of universities and public schools at this time, the 1880-81 winners being Old Carthusians.


15/01/1881 v. North Eastern (H) - fixture in Athletic News 12/1/1881, probably postponed due to poor weather.

26/03/1881 v. Newcastle Rangers (A) - fixture in Newcastle Courant 25/3/1881, however they had omitted to realise in their other columns that the Rangers were playing in the inaugural Northumberland and Durham Challenge Cup Final that day (against Haughton Le Skerne)!

As there was only a meeting to appoint new post holders, rather than an AGM, at the end of the season, there is no record of the season playing record and therefore no way of knowing if Sunderland played any more than the 6 games for which newspaper reports exist.


29/01/1881: Singleton, Sewell, Roberts, Coates and Allan were selected for a Durham team to play Northumberland, but the match was postponed.

05/02/1881: Singleton, Allan and Roberts played for the Northumberland and Durham FA, in a 10-0 defeat to Cleveland FA at Middlesbrough.

19/03/1881: Allan played for Northumberland and Durham FA, in a 2-1 victory over Cleveland FA at Newcastle.