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Micky Remembers... Bury 2-0 - Sunderland get a kick up the arse

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The fact we are playing a League Cup game tonight against lower league opposition not only stirs up memories of one of the darkest days in Sunderland's recent history but also reminds us that things have been much worse.

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If you were hoping for a happy trip down memory lane to forget about our recent struggles, I am sorry to say, you have come to the wrong place. If you are seeking such therapy I would recommend blowing the dust of the old VHS player and watching the highlights from our 1998-99 promotion season. It always does the trick for me.

Back to depressing realism... I want to take you back to about this time ten years ago for a depressing reminder that things can always get worse… much worse.

The mid 2000’s was a tough time to be a Sunderland fan - in 2005-06 we suffered the indignity of breaking our own record low points total and despite Niall Quinn taking over as chairman there was little to be optimistic about in the early days of the 06-07 season.

After being linked with the likes of Martin O’Neill and Alan Curbishley the former target man announced himself as the club’s new manager until a suitable replacement was found.

We all know what happened next - the club lost all of Quinn’s first four games in charge including a humiliating 3-1 defeat at Southend United.

Surely things couldn’t get any worse, could they? At least we had the team bottom of the football league to play in the league cup to get our season up and running? Aye, sorry I forgot we were Sunderland and we are always capable of finding new depths of despair to sink to.

One of the positives at Roots Hall had been the introduction of Spaniard Arnau Riera - in a summer of uninspiring transfer business Riera was a signing that got fans genuinely excited. He had come through the youth system at Barcelona and despite never making a first team appearance there he was the captain of their B team, which had included Lionel Messi. He impressed at Southend despite the defeat and was one of the few players to be applauded off at full time by the travelling fans.

In hindsight the optimism was perhaps unjustified but when your club signs a 35-year-old Kenny Cunningham - people are going to clutch at any straw they can find.

But in true Sunderland style just four minutes into his full debut he was sent off and never played another minute for the club.

This depressing start only got worse for the Wearsiders and after an uninspiring performance, Bury defender John Fitzgerald rose to thump a header past keeper Ben Alnwick from a corner in the 83rd minute. Fitzgerald received a second yellow card for his celebration but it made no difference as Andy Bishop added a second to condemn Sunderland to another embarrassing defeat.

Thankfully, the loss to the football league's basement boys proved to be a watershed moment for the club. Just after the match Niall Quinn announced that the club were close to securing the appointment of a world class name and he would be stepping down from the role.

Days later Roy Keane was appointed as manager and watched the lads record their first league win of the season against West Brom.

This was followed by a chaotic transfer deadline day as Sunderland secured the services of six new players including Dwight Yorke, David Connolly and Ross Wallace, who would all play a big part in the remarkable transformation of the club.

Keane oversaw the lads rise from the very bottom of the league to an unbeaten second half of the season and title victory.

In just 12 months the club went from rock bottom to feeling on top of the world with a rejuvenated support behind them. Crowds soared from 24,000 against West Brom to regular 40,000 plus attendances by the end of the season and there was a belief that the club was on the up again.

I commented at the beginning of the article that things can actually get much worse on Wearside, but it’s also important to remember that when you least expect it they can also get a lot better. So with that in mind, let’s hope our youngsters can impress against Shrewsbury, get our first win of the season and get the happy clappers such as myself feeling hopeful before the inevitable loss at Southampton!