My #1 Big Bad Don

My first love was Marco Gabbiadini. But my first love buggered off to Crystal Palace. Yes, there had been a few signs that things were beginning to go off the rails, but still I wasn’t expecting them to just up and leave like that!

So, there I was, a heartbroken, lovesick teenager with no purpose in life. Wiping away the tears, I pulled myself together, bought some Clearasil, put on a brave face and went off on the rebound seeking a replacement.

And boy did I land on my feet. At the first time of asking too.

In December 1991 our record signing arrived on Wearside. Donald Ralph Goodman. A proper name that, not like that poncy Marco Gabbiadini! He was born in Nottingham for Christ’s sake, who did he th.... sorry, back to the real quiz. My new idol.

At that age I remember being a bit pissed off that we only spent £900, 000 on Big Bad Don. He was our record purchase so why not just ‘round up’ to a Million? (I’ve never been good with money, I’ve just realised the signs were always there)

Goodman certainly looked the part on the day he was announced as a Sunderland AFC player. His flash jacket and Soul-Glo hair were so much more attractive than that York B&B owner. You know, Ricardo’s brother? Aye, him.

Don quickly established himself as a fan’s favourite, bagging a hat-trick against Millwall and ending the 91/92 campaign as our leading scorer with 11 goals, despite plying his trade for WBA for the first four months of the Season.

All good then? The smoothest of smooth transitions? Well, no not exactly.

Firstly, the manager Denis Smith’s (Red & White Army) was sacked, then more disappointingly, as Don had made a poxy appearance for The Baggies against Marlow in the FA Cup 1st Round, he had to sit on the side-lines and watch The Lads defy all odds and reach the FA Cup Final against Liverpool FC. His only part to play, being the ‘banter bloke’ that describes his teammates in a slot on Cup Final Grandstand.

“Anton Rogan’s a right wind-up merchant, and you should see the crazy clobber Tony Norman wears on a night out! Why can’t I play? Come on, it was only against Marlow for God’s sake! Please!”

Despite these significant challenges in the early stages of his SAFC career, Don went on to score 40 goals for the Rokerites and remained a firm favourite of mine throughout. His partnership with Phil Gray was fondly known as the ‘G-Force’ amongst us supporters. Not sure who originally thought up that moniker, but it fit the pair beautifully.

The way Goodman skilfully and speedily took on the opposition defence was absolutely majestic at times. Unorthodox perhaps, but majestic nonetheless.

Hunched-over, with his eyes on his own feet, he’d slip past the Centre Half after a couple of theatrical twitches in his right leg, and less often than not, he’d go into bury the ball into the back of the net. Much better than that former England B International could ever do it. And don’t forget he only got that cap as the game was being played at Roker Park. Fraud.

Honestly did he believe he could successfully replace Ian Wright at Palace? Why didn’t he just stay up here? Was it actually that the board were salivating at the £1.8m on offer, or did he really want to go? Did he not realise the effect that it would have on me? Sorry...

Anyway, further SAFC highlights for Goodman were his beautiful header against Leicester City, his disdainful, hands-on-hips, petulant look towards the match officials and his last-minute winning goal against Luton Town at Roker Park. The latter had me diving wildly around the Fulwell End from the moment the ball hit the net, all the way until Luton equalised moments later. TYPICAL SUNDERLAND!

The Chris Kamara-lookalike buggered off to Wolves for a small profit after a couple of years up here, where he successfully went on to become a middle of the road, journeyman striker and now spends his time as a middle of the road TV pundit.

His glory years were in the North East though. Don Goodman was the right man, at the right time. The dirty fling after your first love leaves you. Fantastic at the time, but with hindsight, they were never going to fully replace that one who originally captured your heart.

You know, that Italian-sounding one with those beautiful bulging thighs...