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Updated: Jul 26

Later today, York City host Sunderland in a pre-season friendly. Although it may not seem it at first glance, the two teams actually have quite a storied past together...

When Sunderland were relegated to the third division, Bob Murray made the inspired decision to take a young Denis Smith from York and put him in charge of Sunderland’s objectively worst ever team (until recently). Smith brought his assistant manager with him, Viv Busby. This isn’t too unusual in football, as managers often need a certain person next to them in the dugout. However, York were outraged when two coaches, Roger Jones and a certain Malcolm Crosby, also left Bootham Crescent for Roker Park!

The exodus didn’t stop there though, as Sunderland continued to do their shopping at Smith’s old club. We’d just reached the depths of the Third Division, and needed a striker who could guarantee goals. The Minster Men has a young starlet in their ranks; a player who’s recently became their youngest player to score a hat trick at just 18 years old. Marco Gabbiadini was a wanted man, having played under Smith the previous season. Smith had even told England manager Sir Bobby Robson to select the striker for England’s youth team to avoid the chance of him playing for Italy! Gabbiadini was brought to Roker Park for £80,000 and Sunderland never looked back. Smith also brought in York defender John MacPhail to shore things up at the back, who captained the side in his first season in red and white. City were left without a striker, manager or assistant manager.

The last time the two sides met was in 2011 for a pre-season friendly. Sunderland won the fixture 2-1, with Phil Bardsley and the lesser known Oumare Tounkara scoring the goals. Despite never playing a competitive minute for Sunderland, Tounkara started the friendly and was strangely very impressive. The French forward was quick and powerful, and curled in a great effort into the bottom corner from 15 yards out. However, Steve Bruce never gave the youngster a chance, and he is now playing in the fourth tier of French football. He is the perfect example of why you should never read too much into pre-season!

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