A long run of defeats with a draw or two as pathetic consolation. Ring a bell? For my ESPN preview of the Swansea game – which I headlined ‘Sunderland need the spirit of ’77 – but a different outcome’ – I couldn’t resist allusion to the 1976-77 season.
Sunderland are not quite at the level we were then. I refer in the article to February 1977. Now, we are only in October, with 93 points to play for. But we have lost all four games at home, all but one of three games away. We are where that logically places us: rock bottom.
At ESPN, I was measured in my description of the shameful thing happened that night in Coventry in May 1977 a few days after I’d seen a great fightback and two Bobby Kerr goals earn Sunderland a 2-2 draw at Norwich. You may be less restrained ….
This is how my piece began. See it in full at http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2224?cc=5739
Over 35 years on, I have no memory of any of the news items on which I was meant to be working on an evening shift in Fleet Street. I remember as keenly as if it were last week that there was a game at Roker Park that February night, and that it ended with a win for Sunderland over Bristol City.
It may seem a mundane sort of match to recall so clearly. But Mel Holden’s second-half goal proved enough to raise the faintest of hopes that relegation might be avoided by a team that had previously lost nine top-flight games in a row, followed by two draws.
A run of three home games then produced incredible, thumping victories — 4-0, 6-1, 6-0 — against Middlesbrough, West Brom and West Ham; suddenly Sunderland were out of the bottom three. Jimmy Adamson, the third manager of the season after Bob Stokoe was briefly succeeded as caretaker by Ian McFarlane, had turned hope into belief.
Much earlier in the current season, older supporters are nevertheless beginning to wonder whether, under Gus Poyet as Sunderland’s third boss since August, their team is capable of giving collective morale a similar boost, starting at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
We didn’t stay up, of course, 36 years ago. Gus Poyet’s uphill battle is to ensure we do this time.
* SEE ALSO: Salut! Sunderland’s comprehensive build-up to Swansea City v SAFC. Go to the home page – https://safc.blog – and browse.