Silksworth, County Durham born centre forward Bobby Gurney played north east local football for Hetton Juniors in 1922, Seaham Harbour in 1923 and Bishop Auckland in 1924 before he signed for First Division Sunderland for £10 and a friendly match (which earned a further £50 for Bishop Auckland) in May 1925, scoring on his Football League debut at West Ham United in April 1926 in a 3-2 defeat. His first hat-trick came against Arsenal in March 1928 and he scored 5 goals in a 7-2 win over Bolton Wanderers in December 1935 as well as scoring 4 goals on three occasions and netting 9 career hat-tricks.
He is the all time highest goalscorer in the history of Sunderland, scoring a fantastic 228 goals for them in 390 appearances over 14 seasons between 1925 and 1939, including 32 goals in the 1930-31 season and 34 in 1934-35. He scored in the 1937 FA Cup Final win over Preston North End having scored 5 goals on the way to Wembley, also winning the League Championship in 1936 when he scored 31 times. Amazingly he only played once for England, against Scotland in a 2-0 defeat at Hampden Park in April 1935 in front of 129,693 spectators.
During the Second World War he was a runner up in the 1942 War Cup Final. He was on Sunderland’s May 1946 retained list but a week later became a member of their coaching staff. In June 1947 he became manager of Horden Colliery Welfare, leaving in February 1950 to become manager of Midland League side Peterborough United until March 1952. He then managed Darlington from March 1952 to October 1957, and he then became a scout for Leeds United and returned to Horden Colliery Welfare before becoming the manager of Hartlepools United from April 1963 to January 1964.
After his death in 1994 aged 86, a minute’s silence was observed when Sunderland played Oxford United in a First Division fixture that Oxford won 3-2.