The first Durham County Challenge Cup winners in 1881

AMAZING what the Internet and some good old-fashioned elbow grease can do.

Last autumn Rugby World ran a competition for a rugby club to win a published history – and now One Among Many, the story of Sunderland RFC, is just a few months from hitting the shelves.

Author and club archivist Keith Gregson is the driving force behind the 60,000-word project and says computer search engines have been invaluable in his research. “I had a team photo from 1881 and a club committee list for 1901 where I’ve been able to discover just about everybody mentioned – age, job, home, social background.

“The club’s minute books are full of material relating to change and relations with the RFU, professionalism and potential leagues – and there are some very interesting characters turning up. It’s remarkable how many vicars played rugby!”

Gregson has drawn on a bulging picture archive and has established a host of achievements by club members: for instance, Sunderland players scored a losing hat-trick against Wales, set up the first coaching course for English schoolboys, wrote up the laws of rugby union, and captained an England age-group side containing Jonny Wilkinson from fly-half.

“I’m trying to produce a book that will act as a template and encourage people to look at the broader picture,” says Gregson. “Hopefully it won’t just be a local history but will make people think of looking at their own club in this way.”

Gregson is about to embark on Sunderland RFC’s post-war history so if you have any info that may be of interest, contact him at or on 0191 510 9206.

The book, published by MX Publishing, is due out in October but is available now for pre-order. Just click on