Five Best/Five Worst

So it’s all over, for another year.

 

The Wolves bandwagon rolls into town for a promotion party on Sunday – and we’ll cast envious eyes to those at the top of the North Stand and remember the days when we were the ones turning up in numbers and making all the noise when the weather was good. There have been some shockers too mind. So for the sake of equality, Francis Todd Malone picks five of the best and worst final day matches that he can remember.

 

THE BEST FIVE

West Ham 3-0 (A) 2011.

A belter of a jolly-up. The Ammers were a mess (some things don’t change) but unlike this season had already gone down. Boudewijn Zenden gave us a half-time lead, then Stephane Sessegnon got a second. Cristian Riveros (remember him?) wrapped up the win at the end and we finished in the top half of the Premier League under old Sausage Nose. Seems a lifetime ago doesn’t it?

 

Luton 5-0 (A) 2007

Again, the home side were going down and just wanted it all to end. We had the title to play for and smashed it, not looking back after goals inside the first six minutes from Anthony Stokes and Daryl Murphy. Murphy, Ross Wallace and David Connolly scored in the second half and Roy Keane’s phenomenal transformation of our club had the right end - another Championship trophy.

 

Rotherham 4-1 (A) 1988

The title was in the bag for this one but the outcome was the same, another big away win.  We chanted for goalkeeper Iain Hesford to nail a penalty, unsuccessfully, as John MacPhail took it and scored his 15th goal of the season right in front of us – not bad for a central defender. Two for Marco and one for Keith Bertschin, who started it all off with the winner in the first game of the season meant a peachy end to a peachy season. Note to the current regime: The third tier can give joy, if you get it right...

 

Tranmere 0-1 (A) 1996

Reidy had cheered us up with a 16-match unbeaten run which took us from nowhere to the title in less than three months. Although the sequence ended thanks to the ever-sporting John Aldridge, confirmation the Mags had provided the right ending to their “let’s give the title to Manchester United” soap opera provided a nice sideshow. We sure did love it, Kev.

 

West Ham 2-0 (H), 1980

Suppose I’d better put a home match in - and there’s only one real candidate. We needed a draw to return to the top flight but won with goals from Kevin Arnott and Stan Cummins. West Ham had won the FA Cup a few days before and weren’t at their best in front of 47,129 at Roker, giving the Roker End its last great hurrah. Thousands more were locked out and my scrapbook had a happy ending.

 

THE WORST FIVE

Notts County 1-3 (A) 1993

There are awaydays with worse endings – Man City in 1991 and Wembley in 1998 stand out - but for sheer grimness, this had it all. Touting tickets for a no show where our lot don’t turn up on the pitch and whack lumps out of each other off it is not my idea of fun. The slide was complete and although we just survived, thanks to the fecklessness of others, if the season had gone on or another game, we wouldn’t have.

 

Crystal Palace 2-1 (H) 2004

We won the second leg of this play-off but lost on penalties and were consigned to another season in the Championship. Jeff Whitley smacked the post with his effort in the shoot-out – then admitted years later he was too pissed to remember it. So Sunderlandy? You betcha.

 

Wimbledon 0-1 (A) 1997

Another day when thousands of us headed south full of hope, only for it to be misplaced again. The only positive thing to come from Jason Euell’s late goal was it meant we didn’t go down on goal difference and curse snide Coventry for trying to delay their kick-off again. One or two stories of the post-match scenes at Selhurst briefly lifted the mood and became part of Wearside folklore – but they didn’t detract from another red and white let-down.

 

Chelsea 1-5 (A) 2017

We’d long since been relegated but Moyes agreeing to co-operate with the John Terry retirement wankfest at Stamford Bridge was not what we needed. A heavier defeat would have been preferable to us helping play stop so the champions could give the retiring former England captain a guard of honour. We went 1-0 up too. About as bad as it gets, were it not for...

 

Gillingham 4-3 (H) 1987

...the day that gazumps the lot. 3-2 down from the first leg of the relegation play-off, we scored four but still found ourselves become the first English team ever to be relegated on away goals. Proper Kentish, that. Some of us still have to change channels when they see Tony Cascarino, who got five of their six goals in the two legs. The lowest point in our history until recently, it probably doesn’t even make the top three now.

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At the back end of the 1980s, football fanzines began to sweep the country and in 1989 we were presented with a new vehicle on which to enjoy some of this ride – A Love Supreme. ALS was a place we could all go to celebrate and commiserate being a Sunderland fan. Win, lose or draw, the pages of the fanzine became solace for many of us as we stumbled our way through our day to day lives, punctuated by the ups and downs of more match days than any of us care to remember.

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