When it comes to scoring goals, David Halliday scored more per game for Sunderland than anyone else. Few Sunderland fans though know much about him.
David Halliday is the only player to have notched 30 top-flight goals in four consecutive seasons and his record of forty-three in 1928-29 not only earned him top-spot in the scorer’s charts that season but makes him Sunderland’s highest scorer in a single season.
The Scotsman’s career straddled the change in the offside law, when, alarmed by the shortage of goals, officials changed the rules in 1925 so that a forward could only be offside if there were fewer than two, rather than three defenders, between him and the goal.
Even before the change, Halliday was already a prolific striker of the back of the net and had finished top scorer in the Scottish League with Dundee in 1923-24, hitting home 38 goals in 36 appearances. With such a pedigree, it was no surprise when he was lured south in April 1925 to play for Sunderland.
The Wearsiders were who looking to rebuild their side after a disappointing seventh place and Halliday’s arrival marked the end of Charlie Buchan’s time at Roker Park, the league’s highest scorer just two season earlier moving on to play with (further) distinction at Highbury.
Halliday’s role was a ‘simple one’ - get the ball into the goal. At 6 feet tall and 12 stone and four pounds in weight, he was powerful enough to give any opposing centre-half a hard time, especially as he was lightning quick and fearless in front of goal.
He started with a bang, hitting ten goals in his first four games and although he could never have hoped to keep up such a record he had hit 106 for Sunderland in the League when the 1928-29 season got underway with the Wearsiders one of the favourites for the title under manager Johnny Cochrane.
Halliday scored on the opening day, but Sunderland lost 3-1 at Burnley. Back at Roker Park he was, for once, missing his shooting boots when Blackburn came to town. Determined to put right his mistakes Halliday then hit home a hat-trick in the home game with Derby that followed.
Two more followed when Bolton travelled north, the centre-forward profiting from some lovely moves down the home right involving Bob Wallace and Johnny Lynas. After eight games he’d hit home seven goals.
Sunderland though were struggling down near the bottom with just six points, and in attempt to freshen up the side, Bobby McKay was signed from neighbours Newcastle United.
The Scotsman was a bundle of tricks and a sublime passer of the ball and was to use his position at inside right to scheme a host of goals for Halliday as the season progressed. Both men were on the scoresheet in a 5-3 defeat at Maine Road, and a few short weeks later each hit a double in a 5-2 Roker Park demolition of Newcastle, McKay playing particularly brilliantly.
Bury’s defence was never going to be strong enough when Sunderland visited Gigg Lane in November, McKay and his fellow inside forward Tom McInally threading the ball between the two full-backs during a period in the game of football when three defenders in a centre-half and two full-backs was the norm. Halliday hit two and soon after when Bury’s near neighbours Manchester United journeyed to Roker Park, his rich vein of goal-scoring continued with a hat-trick in a 5-1, Alf Steward twice being beaten with thundering drives. It wasn’t long before a third hat-trick of the season followed, although it still didn’t stop Sheffield United taking a point back south in a 4-4 draw.
Arsenal were building a team that would go on to dominate English football in the 1930s, but Halliday showed they still had much to learn by scoring three times over Christmas and the New Year as Sunderland earned a draw at Highbury before hammering the Gunners 5-1 at Roker Park on New Year’s Day.
When Sheffield Wednesday travelled to Roker Park fans got the chance to compare Halliday with Jack Allen, who was competing with him for the honour of finishing at the league’s to scorer come the season’s end. Allen did grab a 30th-minute goal but by then Halliday had hit two. Both came in the first six minutes, with a neat finish from eight yards and a cracking 2—yard drive soon after. It might have been four, but Wednesday ‘keeper Jack Brown twice reacted brilliantly during intense second-half pressure from the home side in a 4-2 win that put them in touch near the top with their defeated opponents.
Halliday’s goals were putting the Wearsiders in with a chance of a first title success in sixteen seasons, especially as the following weekend, he again hit two in a 5-0 defeat of Portsmouth. Winning away from home, though, had proven difficult, and so when a falling backwards Halliday headed Adam McLean’s cross into the net at Leeds Road it was a big boost as Sunderland then withstood strong pressure to win 2-1.
It meant that thousands of the side’s followers travelled expectantly to St James’ Park for the local derby, and although their side played well, they returned disappointed after witnessing a 4-3 defeat in a match that revealed the Scottish selectors continued selection of Hughie Gallacher, who, with 3 minutes left, superbly headed a Tommy Lang cross home.
Gallacher had been a major part of the previous season’s Scottish side that had wiped the floor with England by winning 5-1 at Wembley, and it was his brilliance that meant Halliday never even played once for his country.
Newcastle’s last-gasp winner seemed to take the wind out of Sunderland’s sails in the title run-in and when only five points followed in seven matches, it meant only 10,000 were at Roker Park for the final home game of the season. That was a shame because they missed Halliday finish off with a flourish, scoring another hat-trick described as follows in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle:
Halliday scored a hat trick with his first goal coming after a fierce bombardment, the second when he cleverly took a pass from McInally and the third after the interval was the best of the lot. He started a dribble over 40 yards out and finally drew Hufton from goal to shoot into the empty net.
The Sunderland man had blasted 43 goals to finish at the top of the scorers’ charts.
Despite the success, the Scotsman departed to Arsenal before 1929 had ended. Robert Gurney was ten years younger and his time had arrived. The local lad was, in fact, to enjoy a magnificent career at Sunderland remains the Wearsiders’ record goalscorer with 228 goals from 388 appearances. His strike rate, however, never matched that of Halliday with 162 in 175 appearances.
Halliday stayed a year Highbury before moving on to Manchester City, with later spells at Folkestone, Clapton Orient and as player-manager with Yeovil and Petters United. As a manager he was highly successful, leading Aberdeen to Championship and Cup success and Leicester City to the Second Division title. He died in January 1970.
Article taken from GOLDEN BOOT book that was published in 2012.
Article taken from GOLDEN BOOT book that was published in 2012.