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Sunderland AFC V Druids AFC ... Christmas 1888

A surprising discovery from the archives has shown that Druids faced Sunderland in a clash on boxing day 1888.

The match took place as both sides were looking for a friendly, and after Sunderland had been let down by Burnley took up Druids offer to play.

Druids lost the game 12-0 which is hardly surprising considering they had played matches on the previous two days over the Christmas weekend.

The whole Druids squad travelled by Train and we can only presume were shattered after travelling an estimated 450 miles!

Full article below :-

Full credit goes to Gareth Davies for researching and writing this article.


"When I first came across the above advertisement in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette for the game between the Druids and Sunderland I have to admit I was amazed, especially as it was scheduled for Boxing Day 1888.

I got in touch with Sunderland Football Club, and I received an immediate reply to the effect – When you find our more please let us know! Digging around I finally discovered why the game took place. In the Athletic News of Tuesday 18th December 1888 under Club Notices – Football the following notice appears: “The Druids want an away match December 26th-January 1st H R Williams, Ruabon”.

Sunderland had been let down by Burnley so were looking for a friendly to take place on Boxing Day. Sadly, having travelled all the way to Sunderland, the Druids lost the game 12 nil, but it’s hardly surprising as they had played matches on the previous two days over the Christmas weekend. (It’s worth noting that in 1888 workers were not entitled to paid holidays and apart from Sundays they were only entitled to time off work for four Bank Holidays, after the 1871 Act, and the religious holidays of Christmas Day and Good Friday).

Although by 1888 there was an extensive rail network I doubt that there were direct trains from the Potteries to Sunderland, and therefore, any train journey to the north east would have required a number of changes. The team must have been absolutely shattered with three games in three days and having travelled an estimated 450 miles. (I haven’t been able to find any reports of the Leek and Port Vales games).

The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette Saturday 22nd December 1888 reported that: “The football arrangements are of an elaborate character, and extend to January 5th. The senior club on December 26th play the Druids, from Wales, in lieu of Burnley. The Druids are regarded as the premier club of Wales, as they have won the 'Welsh Cup on five different occasions, three times in succession”.

Sunderland Evening Echo Wednesday 26th December 1888 has a full report of the game and it is headed: TO-DAY'S FOOTBALL. SUNDERLAND v THE DRUIDS. HOLIDAY MATCH. “The first of the matches arranged by the Sunderland Executive for the delectation of their patrons during the holiday season took place to-day on the ground in Newcastle-road.

Originally it was intended that Burnley should come to Sunderland, and such encounter would have been provocative of much interest, inasmuch as Burnley contains three men — Brady, McKie, and Mudie—who have played for the home team. The Lancashire club, however, cried off. Some disappointment was expressed, which gave way to a feeling satisfaction when it was announced that the services the Druids, the premier club of Wales, had been secured.

It was the first time that the Cambrians have ever been the north. Albion, the senior club's chief rival, also have an engagement with the Manchester Welsh, so that Sunderland to-day had quite a surfeit of Cambrian football. Up to the present time Sunderland have played 18 matches which they have won 10, drawn 5, and lost 3, with total of 50 goals to 32.

This was the first match which the Sunderland team have played at home for fortnight. A general holiday having been declared, there was large and enthusiastic concourse at Newcastle-road. The ground was somewhat holding after the recent rains.

The teams were as follows:

Sunderland: W Kirtley, goal; R McDermid and J Oliver, backs; W Gibson, H McLaughlin, and D McKechnie, half-backs; A Davison arid J Smith (right wing), W Breconridge (centre), A Peacock and W Peacock (left wing), forwards.

The Druids: J Jones, goal; R Jones and E Bowen, backs; W Williams, T Postle, and R Humphreys, half-backs; W Jones and W A Jarrett (right wing), John Roberts (centre), J Vaughan and H Lloyd (left wing), forwards.

There were about 7,000 people on the ground. Sunderland lost the toss, and at 2.30 Breconridge started the ball in motion from the lower end of the field. W Peacock, from a pass by his brother, invaded Welsh territory transferring to Davison, who almost registered a goal for Sunderland.

Then Oliver from some occult cause missed his kick, and Roberts put in a beautiful shot, which crossed the bar. Sunderland next raided the Cambrian territory and had a free kick for "hands" in the mouth of the goal.

Davison kicked the leather between the uprights, but as it had not been touched no goal was allowed. However, a moment after Peacock took the leather to the top, and Breconridge headed the first major point for Sunderland. More by good luck than skill, the visitors beat off another assault on their citadel.

J Smith and Davison now treated the spectators to a splendid exhibition of passing. A transfer from Davison to Breconridge enabled the latter to notch a second goal fifteen minutes from the start. From a pass by Davison, his colleague Smith scored a goal, the third within less than half-an-hour. The home team maintained their supremacy.

Thanks to their custodian the Welsh foiled many terrific onslaughts, but could not prevent A Peacock from a magnificent transfer by "Willie" heading a fourth major point. At half-time the score was: Sunderland 4 goals The Druids Nil. The final result was Sunderland 12 goals The Druids nil”.

The Wrexham Advertiser of 28th December 1888 headlines DRUIDS CHRISTMAS TOUR: “On Monday the Druids football team left Ruabon on their annual tour, the fixtures being Leek, Port Vale, and Sunderland. They were only defeated at Leek by three goals, and at Port Vale by one goal, and having to travel 150 miles told upon them very materially.

The crack northern club defeated them by eleven goals. The Druids forwards, and in fact the whole team with the exception of three players, were youngsters who had never played in important matches before, and having during the three days tour travelled no less than 450 miles, the stand they made is very satisfactory”.

The Athletic News Monday 31st December 1888 also reported on the game: “The Druids, who have turned out some of the best of Welsh football players, had a roughish time of it last week when they went, to Sunderland, the strong northern club running up a dozen goals. I have a letter from one of the Druids, and he speaks in terms of the warmest praise of the manner in which they were treated by the Sunderland people”.

Six days later the Druids played Davenham Interestingly the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Monday 24 December 1888 has the game listed as Davenham v Welsh Druids at Ruabon.

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