So December begins, and were 3rd in the league - sitting on their shoulders ready to pounce. We had just stuffed Ipswich, and all seemed so well with the world, isn't that when the trouble always
starts for Sunderland!
December 1st, and we get the news that Mart Poom is going to be out for longer than first feared but
there's not a problem, said I, as Myhre is just as good a goalkeeper, and his distribution is better than Poom's. How ironic, then, that Myrhe was found flapping for the very next goal the team conceded, when West Ham
went 0-1 up.
I have jumped a little far ahead, as prior to that goal, we suffered the misfortune of being reduced to ten men,
for an incident that only the referee felt was worthy of punishment. The FA certainly
didn't, when the red card was rescinded a few days later. The lads battled valiantly,
but fell behind after an hour, and were then hit with a sucker punch at the death when Edward Sherringham (as Cloughie used
to call him) hit us on the break. Just when I thought the day couldn't get any
worse, we then get told that Darren Carter is being recalled by Birmingham.
After that, I turn on TalkSport (1089 and 1053 AM's best Sports Radio about) for the FA Cup 3rd round
draw, and we get Palace at home which to my mind that means one thing, revenge!!! I
wanted to humiliate them after the cheating bastards did us in the playoffs. Not that I'm bitter, you understand.
The run up to the Cardiff game caused a moment of panic in the Sunderland
board-room. They suddenly realised that unless he signed permanently for Cardiff then they wouldn't be able to play him against us. Fearful the they would replace him with somebody better, they hurriedly tied up the deal and Dazza was
no longer ours. Two lads who had been described as 'third division nonentities'
by some of our rivals when we signed the really did the business for us against Cardiff at
(a real crap-hole, Why can't they play at the Millenium Stadium). Whitehead and
Lawrence scored a couple of beauties, as we played Lennie Lawrences men off the park.
Bridges was the catalyst, it has to be said, as his entrance to the game, with half an hour to go, was when we finally
managed to break Cardiff down.
Funniest moment of the season so far happened just after that, when 'Hatchet Man' John Oster was arrested for an
assault! The victim said he was gonna get his dad round to sort him out.
Burnley were the next lambs
to the slaughter. I have to admit I had a bad feeling going to the match that
day. I was convinced that Cotterill would get one over on us. I should have known that the bugger wasn't capable of winning at the Stadium of Light. The Burnley keeper, Brian Jensen, was out of the world. He pulled off two saves that looked impossible. I was beginning
to think it was going to end up like the Bosnich game at Roker park, when we finally broke through after half an hour. Bridges got the ball through to Arca, who celebrated his return from suspension by
sliding the ball inch-perfect past Jensen. Celebrations all round then, but before
the hip-flasks had been put away, Burnley were level. It
is ironic that the scorer was called Branch, given that our defence were made to look like planks. Classic sucker punch stuff, more or less straight from the kick off, and we had it all to do again. Liam Lawrence made it 2-1 to Sunderland, only to have
the goal removed from him after the football league awarded it to Michael Bridges. Still,
it doesn't matter who scores them as long as we get the three points, tell that to those of us who bet on Bridges to be last
goal-scorer, and threw away the betting slip after it was announced as Lawrence.
Before the game, I had been to a Branch Liaison Committee meeting at the Stadium of Light, which was held in the
Centre of Light teaching area. Let me tell you, that place is tremendous. There is a tunnel as you go into it, and the walls are bedecked with pictures of heroes;
Sharkey, Clough, Rowell, Hurley, Carter, Bennett, Phillips, Quinn, and so many more. As
you walk through the tunnel, the "March of the Knights" plays, and then when you emerge from the other end Republikas'Ready
to Go kicks in. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. The lady showing us round the centre must have seen on my face how I was feeling about
it, because she asked me if I wanted to go through again. There I am, a man of
36, and she is asking me if I want to go through the tunnel again like a schoolboy, so of course I accepted. You have to go, it is mint. One of the things that was announced
at the meeting was that the target for the Stokoe fund has been reached and well done to everyone, it is a tremendous
effort. Artists have been asked to submit their ideas, and the fans will have
the final say.
So after this, I go into the Christmas programme feeling quietly optimistic, twelve points and top of the league
before we break from the league for the F.A. Cup, methinks. Well me should stop
thinking, because me is clearly not very good at it.
Leeds United. (Dirty Leeds) are the boxing day visitors. I had so built myself
up for this one, to me we are the two biggest clubs in this division, and no matter how far down the league they are, this
is still a big game. Pity the players didn't see it that way. We were woeful, and despite there win, Leeds were no better. Third in the league, and cannot defend against 37 year old Brian Deane; it's just not good enough. He put the fear of God into our defence with every high ball that they pumped in for
him. They had no idea how to deal with him.
The Sunderland board have got a lot to answer for. If
they had rushed to offload Oster as quickly as the did Dazza, then Aaron Lennon wouldn't have been playing. As it was, the young lad decided to have a bit of fun, so he ran through our entire defence before scoring
his first ever goal for his club, remember it, as the lad could be a real star in years to come. Just before half time, we got a penalty, and after going two falls, two submissions or a knockout with Arca
for the right to take it, Lawrence converted the kick. Brian Deane again had our defence creating extra work for the Laundry ladies, as he
put Leeds 2 - 1 up, and then as if to kick us well and truly in the teeth, off the bench
came Julian Joachim. I canā€™t remember a game when the little scroat
didn't score against us, and sure enough, he did it again. Hoolio got a consolation
from a free-kick at the death, but the only real consolation of the day was that Ipswich and Wigan
had also been beaten.
Two days later, and Nottingham Forest
fans must have thought they'd been mugged. If they had one decent striker, we'd
have been buried long before a Marcus Stewart strike in injury time gave us all three points against a Forest
side who were, by then, down to ten men. In truth, it was a poor game, and the
result did little more than paper over the cracks that were starting to appear in our season.
Still, we ended the year on a high note, and results elsewhere meant that we went into 2005 in an automatic promotion
I'd love to take this through to the cup match, but have had a warning from Jonny that January is someone elses
job, so I had best leave it there and that means they can have the fun of describing the first half against Preston,
and the slow suicide that was the Gillingham game.