Although a low point in the history of this great club, there are plenty of happy memories of Premier League action to recall. So sit back, and reminisce about these glorious days in the history of Sunderland AFC…
Nottingham Forest 1-4 Sunderland – August 1996
There really is nothing like your first time, and what a first time it was for Sunderland. Just four days after a somewhat nondescript Premier League bow (a 0-0 home draw with fellow promoted side Leicester), Sunderland travelled to the City ground for a midweek tear-up with Nottingham Forest.
Shorn of the dream Collymore/Roy partnership of 1994/95, Forest were not the force they once were, but still knew how to fight for every ball, and had thrashed Coventry in their own season opener. However, the Reds were chasing Black Cat shadows from the off, and it took just eight minutes for Michael Gray to open the scoring, firing low past Mark Crossley into the corner of the Forest net.
The real hero of the day was Niall Quinn, who defied age and logic to rip holes in Forest’s mainstay defender Stuart Pearce.
Quinn was set up by Michael Gray for his first, and though Forest pulled one back, he had his second very soon after, getting his head on the end of a long cross from Paul Bracewell to restore the two-goal cushion. Aerial prowess ruled supreme once again just ten minutes later, with Richard Ord finding ‘top bins’ via his bonce.
Derby 0-5 Sunderland – September 1999
Sunderland began 1996/97 strongly, but faded away and suffered relegation. The opposite was true of the Mackems’ second stab at Premier League establishment, with the team thriving under Peter Reid after a 4-0 opening day defeat at Chelsea, and occupying third spot on Christmas Day 1999. We’ll get to famous derby days, like the Ruud-ruining derby win on Tyneside later. However, one of the other standout moments of 1999/2000 was the sight of Kevin Phillips single-handedly destroying Derby County on their own turf.
The previous season, the Rams had been short-lived dark horses for the title, but they looked like absolute relegation fodder this year. ‘Everton reject’ Grant McCann started the demolition job by firing low and firm past Russell Hoult inside the area just before the 25-minute mark, and the killer second arrived when Gray was provider for Phillips, who merely had to tap-in and put the game to bed.
There was little any defence could have done about Phillips’ second, taking the form of an exquisite volley from the corner of the six-yard box. As it had been across the east midlands three years previously, Quinn’s head was again involved, with Gray once again the provider, and the Mackem elder planted it into an empty net for four.
Phillips completed his hat-trick in the closing minutes, latching onto an excellent through-ball from Alex Rae to make the scoreline just a bit more resounding.
Naturally, his achievement would be eclipsed just one day later, when Alan Shearer scorched the doomed Sheffield Wednesday five goals en-route to an 8-0 victory… typical!
Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland – November 2010
Three months after that 1999 Derby demolition, Sunderland would gain sweet revenge for the opening day pounding they took at Chelsea. They almost reversed the scoreline, going into the break 4-0 up after another Kevin Phillips masterclass. The Mackems then completed a league double over the Blues the following year.
Doing that against an ever-present Premier League club is a great achievement when the odds are against you. However, beating the reigning champions 3-0 at their own ground, where they are nearly always a favourite to win, is a different prospect altogether.
Nobody gave Sunderland a prayer when they visited Stamford Bridge in November 2010, to face a Chelsea side that had thrashed them 7-2 in the capital just ten months previously.
This time there was only one team doing the thrashing. After a first half largely spent defending the Chelsea onslaught, Nedum Onuoha opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time after a tremendous solo run.
After the break, however, it was the Gyan and Welbeck show, with the second goal coming through interplay between Danny Welbeck and Jordan Henderson. The latter man found Asamoah Gyan in space, and the Ghanaian made no mistake one-on-one with Petr Cech. Welbeck completed the scoring three minutes from time, exploiting Ashley Cole’s horrendous backpass to underline the Black Cats’ eventual dominance of proceedings.
Newcastle 0-3 Sunderland – April 2013
No list of this ilk would be complete without a triumph over the heathen Magpies, and there are simply too many examples to list. On top of two Tyneside wins either side of the millennium, a run of six straight derby wins across all venues between April 2013 and October 2015 leaves us spoilt for choice.
Amongst that scintillating sextet are a brace of 3-0 wins at St James Park, but for sheer shock value, it was the first of those – and the first in the whole sequence – that really resonates the most. The meeting of April 2013 was a must-win for Sunderland to guarantee safety, and win they did.
Stéphane Sessegnon was the opening goalscorer, latching on to a loose ball from Jonas Gutierrez and firing past Tim Krul. The Mackems withstood the inevitable onslaught, and rendered Newcastle dangerman Papiss Cisse utterly impotent, implementing a well-organised defensive setup.
Two more goals buried the Magpies once and for all, with David Vaughan rounding off the goals via a piledriver into the corner of the net. Cue much rioting and human-equestrian boxing in Bigg market!
Sunderland 3-0 Everton – May 2016
What’s better than a derby win? Any win that sends Newcastle crashing into the Championship!
Until the evening of 11 May 2016, Sunderland could not exactly boast the best home record against Everton, but took full advantage of a lacklustre visiting outfit to win 3-0. In doing so, Sunderland delivered the coup de grace upon Newcastle – and Everton manager Roberto Martinez, who was sacked within 24 hours of the result.
In truth, this was by no means a classic. Sunderland simply did the basics right, with Patrick van Aanholt drawing first blood through a slightly off-key free kick that bamboozled Joel Robles and set a precedent for the whole night. Yann M’Vila chased down Leighton Baines’ hashed clearance and played in Lamine Kone. He smashed the ball into the net, and it was 2-0 – and party time.
By now, Everton (and Martinez) knew the game was up, and it certainly was, when Kone got his second just ten minutes after the interval. Robles was again culpable, with a punching error seeing the ball deflect into Kone’s path, setting him up for the easiest goal of his entire career. Sunderland could well have plundered more against an Everton side that was beyond caring.
Just forty minutes later, Sunderland were a league above Newcastle.