The Durham and Northumberland FA separated into separate county associations prior to the start of this season, so Sunderland entered the new Durham Challenge Cup, which they won, beating Darlington in the final. Sunderland actually won twice, having to face a replay following a Darlington protest after victory in the first match. This season also saw the first ever meeting between Sunderland and the club later to become Newcastle United; East End. Sunderland left Tyneside with a comfortable 3-0 victory on 3 November 1883. A second piece of silverware was acquired with another victory over East End, in a short-time Temperance Festival tournament played on Newcastle Town Moor in June 1884.
In February, Sunderland took on a team from outside the North-East for the first time, but this did not go well at all. On Saturday 23rd February 1884 they advertised the fact that they were travelling to Lancashire to play some noted clubs from that area, such as Great Lever, Blackburn Rovers and Blackburn Olympic. Association Football in the North-West was probably more advanced that anywhere else in the country at this time. Only Great Lever were played, in a match on 25th February that had been arranged by the Rev. Hindle, whose brother kept a hotel in Accrington. No reports ever got back to North-East newspapers; and in the North-West press, Great Lever's opposition were billed as "Durham". The subterfuge was uncovered in the Athletic News, by Alfred Grundy, indigant secretary of the new Durham FA, who patently did not want the FA to be associated with the match and emphatically stated that it was Sunderland AFC who were the opposition. The reason was obvious; Sunderland lost 11-0! Even when the club held its AGM at the end of the season, this significant match - Sunderland had previously travelled no more than about 30 miles for a game - was not mentioned, and not included in the published playing record for the season.
Nationally, the FA Cup was won by the first recognisable "modern" team, Blackburn Rovers, but there was still no league football anywhere in the world.
SCHEDULED FIXTURES FOR WHICH NO REPORT CAN BE FOUND:
8/12/1883 v. East End (H) - published in the local press.
29/12/1883 v. Heaton (H) - published in the local press.
14/04/1884 v. Fulwell District (H) - an Easter Monday charity match previewed in the local press.
This is the first season where we have an AGM reported, within which was a summary of the club's playing record: 30 games played, 24 won, 4 drawn and 2 lost, 110 goals scored and 16 goals conceded. The Great Lever match described above is clearly not included. The playing record of the games on this site, excluding the same match, is 25 played, 20 won, 3 drawn, 2 lost, 92 goals scored and 15 goals conceded. So if we take the AGM as an accurate source, there are 5 games (4 won, 1 drawn, 18 scored and 1 conceded) for which reports have never been found. There are plenty of spare Saturdays in the season when these may have taken place, and a good chance that the Fulwell charity match did happen; perhaps some evidence of these games will be discovered in the future.
REPRESENTATIVE MATCHES INVOLVING SUNDERLAND PLAYERS:
22/12/1883: Hall, McDonald and Allan played for the Durham FA, in a 4-3 victory over Northumberland FA at the Tyne Ground in Newcastle.
16/2/1884: Hall, McDonald, Foulkes and Allan played for the Durham FA, in a 4-1 victory over Northumberland FA at the Old Cricket Ground, Monkwearmouth (later to become SAFC's Newcastle Road ground). McDonald scored Durham's first goal.