Sunderland and playoffs. Part two: Bramall Lane and Sheffield United


Before the Wembley heartbreak

Monsieur Salut writes: Pete Sixsmith‘s habit of suggesting all manner of Sunderland-related series has been as beneficial to Salut! Sunderland as it has been exhausting for him. This is another rod he made for his own back, a look at playoff joys and sorrows of the past. The first instalment covering the opening act of a dramatic tragedy – when we had to beat Gillingham to avoid dropping to the third tier in 1987 – and the home leg of an exhilarating tussle with the Mags three years later can be found here.

I have patchily vivid memories of both the 1998 semi-final legs against Sheffield United (and, of course, the final). At Bramall Lane, I remember Kevin Ball’s goal putting us ahead to the accompaniment of a short but nasty outbreak of bother up in or near one of the hospitality boxes, United yobs reacting violently to the cheers of a few Sunderland supporters – an incident I was reminded of when I condemned an attack on a Pompey fan in a SoL home section recently.

Pete will now take you back 21 years to the first act in a gripping drama. There’ll be more next week, including video footage of the second leg, one of my own and Pete’s greatest nights at any Sunderland game (I couldn’t locate a clip from the Bramall Lane match though one must exist; Pete’s mention refers to a full review of the Blades’ 1997-98 season which includes highlights of both games; it cannot be embedded but is seen here). Meanwhile, don’t look at this season’s final tables (Championship and League One unless you want an annoying reality check …

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