John McCormick writes: Wikipedia had an interesting page on the 1939-40 season but I can’t find it any more, and I do have to ask why do we need it when we have the statcat.

But I digress. A few months ago I came across  a copy of the Daily Express from 1939, 4th September to be precise. It contained a report of a football match between Arsenal and Sunderland. We lost 5-2, with Ted Drake scoring four of those goals. Here’s how the statcat shows the game:

click the pic to visit the page on the Statcat site

Daily Express, 4/9/39

I doubt if many people took much notice of the newspaper article.  The day before the game Germany had invaded Poland. The day after the game, Sunday 3rd September, Mr Chamberlain had broadcast to the nation announcing that we were at war with Germany. The evacuation of children had begun, air raid sirens had sounded and the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, passed in August, was being put into action.

Under this act, which included provision for a ban on the gathering of large crowds, the Football League was suspended. You can hear the announcement, which focused on cinemas – how many held 50,000 people? – and exempted churches, by clicking the play icon on the bar below:

Though wartime Leagues were soon established and there was a wartime cup these were often affected by the availability of players, who had signed up in large numbers, and the Football League proper did not resume until 1946.

Here’s the original report:

Games in the wartime league and cup were not included in official statistics; they often included guest players – professionals who had signed up and were based nearby, and there were incidences of games being scheduled but not played.  Sunderland didn’t enter the initial War League because the ground was close to the shipyards and crowds there were thought to be at risk but they did enter from 1941. They were runners up to Wolves in the League War Cup in 1942 and finished third in the War League in 1945.

As if it mattered. Sometimes we need to remember. There are more important things than football

Declaration of War posted on YouTube by Worcesterjonny Jan 2009. If there is any copyright claim on the video or graphics used in this post, not covered by “fair comment” please let us know and we will remove and/or acknowledge as requested. And thanks, as ever, to the Statcat

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

3 Responses to “80 years ago: the last day of peace” Subscribe

  1. wrinkly pete September 2, 2019 at 3:00 pm #

    Awesome. How good it is to be reminded how lucky we are today.

    We may lose a football match but not our lives

    We may have to leave the E U but will still exist within a brilliant democracy.

    Thank you John.

  2. Salutsunderland September 3, 2019 at 7:08 am #

    Fascinating and timely, John. Thanks for posting

  3. William C September 3, 2019 at 2:04 pm #

    I also thank you John. A timely reminder at this time when our membership of the EU is in the balance.

    I was [ just ] around at that time [ aged one and 11 months ] but not too aware, or indeed, bothered at what was about to happen.

    I missed all those great players from the Arsenal/Sunderland clash except one – the late, great Johnny Mapson, who I watched many times during the ” Bank of England ” days of the 1950’s. He was some goal keeper. He was in the Gordon Banks mould, making it look relatively easy as a result of his anticipation and judgment of angles, and was brave as a lion.

    Like many other players he missed 5 vital career years, but fortunately he was young enough to return to football at top level and still have a memorable career.

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