AND THAT COULD BE THE GOAL THAT WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP! STEPHEN ELLIOT!
It's not quite up there with Simon Crabtree’s "I think I’ve wet me knickers" comment after Carlos Edwards had rifled in the winner against Burnley from "80 yards out…maybe a hundred". But when the club released a DVD celebrating promotion I heard the Stephen Elliot commentary line so many times, I think it’s etched onto my brain.
Despite winning the league in 2004-05 not many people look back on that era in the club’s history with much fondness. Perhaps it was because it was sustained form throughout the season rather than the momentum-fueled delirium of the Roy Keane promotion, or maybe it’s hard to be too nostalgic when we all know the horrors of the 15-point season that followed. But for me the functional overachievers of 2004-05 will always be up there with my favourite Sunderland teams.
This might sound a little tragic but I was a child of the Sgt. Wilko era, my first game was that 3-1 home defeat to Charlton (cheers Proctor) - I just wasn’t used to seeing a winning team. The next season saw Sunderland break my heart twice with play off and FA cup semi-final defeats. But in the season that followed I was in my element, seeing Marcus Stewart banging in the goals for fun, Julio Arca and George McCartney linking up down the left-hand side and even the likes of Sean Thornton chipping in with the occasional screamer. With every win the belief that we would be returning to the Premier League grew stronger, soon I could swap watching Sunderland entertain the likes of Rotherham with Arsenal. Of course, I should have been careful what I wished for, but this was in the days before following the lads had sucked the life out of me.
Promotion was confirmed the weekend before our trip to Upton Park with a 2-1 victory at home to Leicester, meaning the only matter yet to be decided was the destination of the league title. Victory at West Ham would mean Sunderland would go up as Champions.
But if there’s one thing we should all know about the lads is that we never make it easy for ourselves. After a poor first half showing we went behind just before half time when the goal machine that is Marlon Harewood gave the home side the lead.
But Sunderland came out in the second half determined to set up a title celebration at home to Stoke and just three minutes into the second half they were level after 52 when Julio Arca scrambled the ball home after Chris Brown initially turned the ball goalwards.
Sunderland pressed for the winner and it eventually came in the 88th minute when Stephen Elliot drove an angled shot into the bottom corner, sending the travelling support into raptures.
The Wearsiders held out to seal the Championship title. Of course we all know what happened next, but Mic Mac’s team of red and white wizards will always hold a special place in my heart.