Not much of a happy hunting ground for Sunderland, but Pete Sixsmith can hark back beyond Eastlands to Maine Road …
The bandwagon rolls on to The City of Manchester Stadium tomorrow, a ground where we have lost on each and every occasion we have played there. The chances for tomorrow are not great on paper, but if Asamoah can do to Lescott what he did on Tuesday, you never know. We seem to have an almost full squad for this one, so The Brucester’s team selection could be interesting.
I had a few decent days out at Maine Road. The first time I went, I went to the Manchester Programme Shop in Upper Lloyd Street, clutching a 10/- note saved from my paper round, with the express intention of buying programmes and badges. I came back with issues from City, United and non-league clubs I had never heard off at that time – Mossley, Dukinfield Town and Wythenshawe Amateurs if memory serves me correct. I still had change for my admission to Maine Road and a big pork pie and a woman.
Of course, the best day in Moss Side was 1973 and we had a grand night in 1980 when a John Hawley hat trick gave us a 4-0 win. But for sheer drama, the 3-2 defeat in May 1991 takes some beating.
As usual, it was a relegation match. We were in the usual position of needing a win and hoping that others lost in order to stay up. As usual, the required combination of results did not work for us and we plummeted back into Division Two after a single season in the top flight. Maybe we have put those days behind us.
The game was remarkable for two things. First of all, Marco scored a stunning goal to level the scores. He was on the end of a great move involving Colin Pascoe ( a much underrated player in my view) and John Kay, playing at left back after an injury to Paul Hardyman. Kay’s cross was brilliant and was matched by Marco’s header. I can picture him and Gyan together, leading the line. Wow!!
It was in front of the Sunderland fans in the Platt Lane Stand. We filled that end and there were Sunderland fans all over the ground as City got their biggest crowd of the season – 39,000, even more than the derby game with United. What does that say about football in the Pre Sky Dark Ages? Well, it was cheap and you didn’t need a bloody ticket.
The second remarkable thing was our propensity to do the hard work and then mess it all up asap. Of course, we are still very good at this after years and years of practice. Within a minute of Gary Bennett giving us the lead, we made a complete rickets in our own box and one Niall Quinn seized on a Gary Owers error to level the scores and effectively send us down. Owers went on to manage Forest Green Rovers, Bennett is a well respected pundit on local radio and Quinn – well, I’m sure he will be a success somewhere.
After the game, as we left the Main Stand, City fans applauded the Sunderland supporters who had been magnificent throughout. I think that was one of our finest days as supporters. The chances of staying up were not great but we were there to roar them home. Alas, it was not to be.
The evening was spent in Southport, sitting on my brothers back step with a bottle of vodka and the Intermezzo from Cavalieri Rusticana (the old Kleenex advert; used in Godfather 3) belting out and me saying “That’s it, I’m not getting this involved again”. Funny what you say after the old grain based white spirit is sloshing about in the system. Twenty years on and we are still here.
Ha’way The Lads …