Monsieur Salut writes: it is now fairly well known that Pete Sixsmith‘s wonderful twin series at Salut! Sunderland – the First Time Ever I Saw Your Team (or Ground when Sunderland were the away team) – ran its sublime course at the end of last season. From time to time while we are still in League One, and maybe beyond, we will reproduce the pieces he wrote about our next opponents.
As ever, bear in mind that this was written a year ago, just before we recorded a fourth win a row, beating Southend United 3-0 to keep up pressure on the top place. This time, we nee a similarly emphatic scoreline to restore a fair amount of diminishing faith. Let Pete’s restored gem from October last year set the scene …
John McCormick writes: Southend, nope, I don’t think so. I’ve not seen them. This week’s Who Are You guest, Rhys Ellingham, wrote about us playing them in 06/07 but the only time I got to the SOL that season was on 11th November, when we drew with Southampton, so I missed them by a good three months, just as I missed them on all their previous trips.
But, then, even Pete Sixsmith has missed one of their visits:
The Shrimpers have not been regular visitors to Wearside, playing here seven times between their first appearance in 1987 and their last one twenty years later. Their first and last appearances were comfortable victories for us, but the less said about the other five the better.
I may have seen Southend at Darlington before I first saw them at Roker, but I can’t remember it and a trawl through their results against the Quakers does not set any bells ringing. I even missed their inaugural appearance at Roker when they were walloped 7-0 by a Denis Smith side which sat at the top of Division Three and never dropped out of the promotion positions for the remainder of the season.
I missed it because I was doing some youth work in Bishop Auckland at the time and Tuesday was my regular night. I tried to persuade some of the members to go with me but they preferred smoking, drinking and playing pool to a night at the football. Nobody was available to swap sessions so I bit the bullet and went to work.
Two players made their debuts that night. Dickie Ord, a Sunderland man to his boot straps, came in for Gary Bennett and did well until he departed to a round of applause on 75 minutes. He was replaced by Micky Heathcote, a Kelloe lad, who only played a handful of games for us but who had a good career at Shrewsbury Town, Cambridge United and Plymouth Argyle.
Eric Gates rattled in four that night with Paul Atkinson getting two and Marco claiming the other one. I must have tuned in to BBC Newcastle at some time in the evening and I probably declared Free pop for all as the sixth one went in.
So, my first experience of Southend as our opponents came four years later, the day before Halloween. We were still under the management of Dennis Smith but the loss of our First Division place the previous season still rankled with many supporters.
Looking back, it would probably have been for the better if Dennis had left after that, but he wanted another crack at promotion and clearly felt that he had the players to do it.
He had added Anton Rogan and John Byrne to his squad and it was Byrne who scored in the 44th minute to cancel out Brett Angel’s opener. But we failed to build on that and Pat Scully claimed the winner with twenty minutes to go which prompted an outbreak of mega-booing from the 13,575 scattered around the ground.
The line ups were;
Tony Norman; John Kay, Gary Bennett, Kevin Ball, Anton Rogan; Gordon Armstrong Paul Bracewell, Gary Owers; Craig Russell, John Byrne, Peter Davenport. Subs; Colin Pascoe (for Russell 75) Thomas Hauser (for Davenport 75).
Southend were managed by David Webb and he selected the following;
Paul Sansome; Dean Austin, Chris Powell (the current manager), Keith Jones, Pat Scully, Spencer Prior, Andy Ansah, John Cornwell, Brett Angell, Ian Benjamin, Steve Tilson subs; Peter Butler, Kevin O’Callaghan.
After this defeat, Smith had the last throw of his dice and spent just under a million pounds on Don Goodman from West Bromwich Albion to pep up the forwards. Goodman must have wondered what he was walking into when, on his debut at Wolves, we had two players sent off before the clock was at ten past three. Byrne and Armstrong were the miscreants and we held out for 82 minutes before current Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook scored the only goal.
When Southend came back to Roker in April 1993, Smith was long gone and his successor, Malcolm Crosby, had also been given his cards. The manager’s chair was now occupied by Terry Butcher who does not talk very positively about his time in the North East and who is not remembered with much affection by Sunderland supporters.
He had promoted Michael Gray to the team, had signed Mick Harford and was playing Malcolm Crosby’s marquee signing, Shaun Cunnington. Poor Cunnington became the butt of Jeremy Robson’s rather savage sense of humour and I always got the feeling that he did not enjoy playing in front of the Clock Stand Paddock.
Southend were managed by Barry Fry, now a “GOM” but then an irritating little southerner who had captured the imagination of Fleet Street’s finest. But he did have an eye for a player and he had picked up Stan Collymore from Crystal Palace for a mere pittance.
Collymore exploded onto the scene and in his ten months as a Shrimper, scored 15 goals in 30 games, including the opener in their 4-2 win at Roker. That prompted Frank Clark (75 and still going strong) to splash £2.75m on him to take him to Forest, where he scored regularly before he quadrupled his value and went to Liverpool.
That 4-3 game was a classic, the kind of game that neither side will never be involved in again, ever, and Stan bagged the winner in the last minute to prompt flooding around the Anfield Road End as the tears flowed like wine at a French Summer Festival.
He didn’t. Angell had a good career with the likes of Cheltenham Town, Stockport County and Southend but he was an abject failure at Goodison and Roker. His Everton career comprised 18 League games and 1 goal while his Sunderland career was eight games and one goal less (although he did net one in the Football League Cup). He was big and awkward and clearly had something because he made over 500 FL appearances and is now a respected coach in New Zealand. But whatever it was he had, he didn’t bring it to Wearside with him.
The last time they were here, we were on the road to the Premier League as Roy Keane and his Merry (or should that be Frightened) Men romped home to the title. Just for old times sake, here’s our line-up that day;
Marton Fulop; Danny Simpson, Nyron Nosworthy, Johnny Evans, Danny Collins; Carlos Edwards, Liam Miller, Dean Whitehead, Tobias Hysen; David Connolly, Stern John subs; Darren Ward, Ross Wallace (for Connolly 71), Grant Leadbitter (for Whitehead 82), Dwight Yorke, Anthony Stokes (for Hysen 72).
We were two up in 13 minutes through Connolly and Hysen and then Stern John got a quick-fire double in the 77th and 78th minutes to prompt Southend manager Steve Tilson to say that we were certain to win promotion with that team.
Hopefully, Chris Powell will be having similar thoughts at 4.50 on Saturday.
*** One year on, for Chris Powell please read Sol Campbell. Ha’way the Lads