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Cult Heroes: Nicky Summerbee

Celebrating someone who was quite good for us, and them, every week.
Celebrating someone who was quite good for us, and them, every week.

With heads pounding and stomach's no doubt churning from the previous night's excess there is a little matter of Sunderland vs Manchester City on New Year's Day. As the suave Mancini looks set to bring his stellar squad to the North East we turn our attention here at RR Towers to a Cult Hero who has represented both sides. A man with great pedigree, his own inimitable style, swagger and the best right foot in the land. Of course it is the one only Nicky Summerbee!

Nicky's future career was never really in doubt given his famous parentage. Mike Summerbee was a Maine Road legend in the late 1960's and 70's, somewhat of a heyday for the Blue half of Manchester as the versatile midfielder, forming part of the successful trio alongside Colin Bell and Francis Lee, was instrumental in winning numerous Championships, European honours, International recognition for England before owning a clothes shop in partnership with a certain George Best.

So it was no surprise when Nicky followed his father's footsteps into the game and had trials with Manchester United, Leicester and Norwich before finally settling with Swindon Town in 1989. Summerbee spent seven years with Swindon before the seemingly inevitable move to Manchester City for £1.3m in 1994.

Unfortunately for Summerbee, despite his obvious ability on the right flank he never really settled with Manchester City and soon became a scapegoat for abuse from the stands. The expectations attached to his family name hampered any chance Nicky had of winning round the fans. Following the appointment of Alan Ball and a subsequent relegation from the Premier League in 1997 the winger was finally put out of his Maine Road misery when Peter Reid presented Manchester City with a cheque for £1m and, one of my favourite players as a youngster, Craig Russell to secure Summerbee's signature.

It was under Peter Reid and the wave of optimism that came with Sunderland's move to the Stadium of Light that Nicky played undoubtedly the best football of his career. Forming a memorable partnership with Chris Makin on the right side of Reid's all-conquering side Summerbee would go on to showcase his deadly accurate right boot. Nicky made an instant impact following his transfer, coming off the bench to put the icing on the cake of a 4-1 away win at Portsmouth with a low drive to complete the rout.

Summerbee didn't always have it easy however as his distinct style and un-tucked shirt was often mistaken for laziness from certain sections of the crowd. Unfazed by the criticism Nicky would soon win over even his staunchest of critics with some dazzling wing play where he would provide consistent quality ammunition for the Quinn and Phillips duo. He also had a knack of being able to find Alan Johnston on the opposite wing with a pinpoint cross field switch of play that was a joy to behold.

Promotion to the Premier League for the 1999/00 season allowed the winger to finally showcase his talent at the highest level and it wasn't long before the standard of his crosses drew deserved praise and comparisons to David Beckham, with the statistics putting Summerbee ahead of the England International, both in accuracy from crosses and shots.

Unfortunately for Nicky and the Sunderland fans the season did not quite pan out as expected. Following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal at Highbury, an injured Nicky enjoyed what would go on to become an infamous night out which ended in a well-publicised liaison with the Boddingtons loving Melanie Sykes. Whilst the rest of the squad was presumably impressed with Summerbee's conquest, Peter Reid was apparently not and Nicky found himself, in and out of the squad for the remainder of the season.

Summerbee never quite regained his manager's trust despite impressing in the games that he did figure in following the events in London and found himself in the wilderness the following term and did not figure for over six months before appearing in a reserve team game against Newcastle. The game was somewhat of a disaster for Nicky, lacking fitness and match practice was substituted before he was sent off following a clash with Andy Griffin. Nicky's unhappy spell with the club finally came to an end as the winger sealed a free transfer to Bolton Wanderers in 2001.

Whilst Nicky's time with Sunderland ended on a sour note, the wideman will always be remembered fondly on Wearside for his influence on a side that was responsible for some of the most entertaining, exciting and successful football in recent memory. He also recently fell on his backside on live TV, but no, he will definitely only be remembered for his fantastic form during a great time to be a Sunderland fan, honest.

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