Sunderland’s Twelve Days of Christmas: (8) Manchester City and Ji

Salut! Sunderland wishes all readers a happy, prosperous and relegation-free 2014

Some games will never be forgotten and Pete Sixsmith has identified a few of them already in his Twelve Days of Christmas series. Cast your minds back two years back to New Year’s Day 2011 when Martin O’Neill’s ‘new manager bounce’ was still reaching extraordinary heights. Manchester City were on their way to their first top-flight championship in nearly half a century. Citeh fans will tell you the balance of play suggested a 24-0 away win. In stoppage time, ti was still 0-0. Step forward a certain South Korean …

8 01/01/2012 Manchester City (H) 1-0

Forty four years and one day
on from Bobby Kerr’s arrival on the scene, along came Ji Dong-Won to score a last minute winner against a City side on the verge of their first championship since 1967-68. I can’t think of any Sunderland fan that was there that day who will ever forget the dramatic end to this particular game.

We were five games into the Martin O’Neill era; the one that we were sure would lift us away from the rabble struggling around the bottom of the league and establish us as a club who could challenge for cups and even a top six position.

Goals from Larsson and Vaughan had seen us past Blackburn Rovers in a tense game, both coming in the last ten minutes and after the introduction of James McClean, who opened the game up with his direct running.

There was a defeat at Spurs, where a hirsute Tom Huddleston had smashed home a sensational winner and then a dramatic 3-2 win at Loftus Road, with Wes Brown squeezing in a dramatic winner right at the end. It also saw the TV debut of Jarvis the Cocker Spaniel, as he exhibited his private parts to a worldwide audience.

Howard Webb ruined Boxing Day by awarding Everton the worst penalty decision ever seen at either Newcastle Road, Roker Park or The Stadium of Light, (Leon Osman got his comeuppance on Boxing Day 2013), allowing them to cancel out Colback’s opener, and by the time City arrived in town six days later, we were down to the bare bones of a squad. Westwood pulled out on the morning of the game and O’Neill called Mignolet up, despite the Belgian keeper having barely recovered from a facial injury. Gardner and Colback lined up as full backs due to Bardsley being injured and us not bothering with a left back since the days of Joe Bolton.

Larsson, Vaughan, Cattermole and McClean made up the midfield with Sessegnon floating and Bendtner up front and a mixture of subs who had been frozen out under Bruce in Kilgallon and youngsters like Noble and Laing. City had Aguero, Silva and Richards on the bench, but included Dzeko, Johnson, Toure and Barry. Balotteli remained in Manchester, setting fire to twenty pound notes and painting his cars.

Few of the 40,000 in the ground that day thought we would win. Some hoped for a draw, but when City started to spray the ball around, defeat looked inevitable. But we dug in and the midfield four ran their hearts out and their socks off in order to foil the lavish spending Blues.

So, with time added on nearly gone, we were delighted with a draw and then………

Mignolet saved a header from Aguero and moved the ball to Larsson who moved forward with it at his feet. He played it to McClean, who passed it to Ji who passed it to Sessegnon who gave it back to Ji who rounded Joe Hart and slipped it into the net. Oh what joy!!! Goodness knows what Jarvis was jiggling about back in Shildon.

We were convinced that this really was the start of a new era and that the club was on the up. Ellis Short must have been delighted at the impact of his new manager and we went on a good run, being eighth in the table at one time, before the post Everton Cup slump.

It was two years ago and we are in deep trouble again. O’ Neill has gone after a desperately poor 2012-13 and we have had the horrors of the Di Canio period. Of the players who turned out that day, Mignolet, Sessegnon, McClean, Bendtner, Kilgallon and Elmohamady have all left the club. Vaughan is at Forest on loan, Gardner and Colback are in and out and only O’Shea and Cattermole are regulars – when not injured or suspended.

See the Twelve Days of Christmas series in full at

As for the man who was French kissed by a hairy Wearsider on screen, he has faded away into obscurity after a miserable start to the season, culminating in an embarrassing substitution against MK Dons, where Di Canio probably destroyed what little confidence the young Korean had by taking him off three minutes into the second half.

Rumour has it that he is on his way to the Bundesliga in January. Poyet has not even had him on the bench. Wherever he ends up, he will always be remembered on Wearside for that heart stopping moment when a team of strugglers beat the elective Premier League Champions.

“Ji Dong-Won, my lord, Ji Dong-Won, Oh lord, Ji Dong-Won!”

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4 thoughts on “Sunderland’s Twelve Days of Christmas: (8) Manchester City and Ji”

  1. According to Poyet, he’s back in the squad for today’s match.

    Could history be about to repeat itself?

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