One of the many great things about football is its ability to provide joy and optimism. Regardless of how a season pans out we always have at least one moment that makes us believe and reminds us why we bother with the shitstorm that is this club.
In 2002/2003 we beat Liverpool 2-1 in mid-December with a late winner from local lad Michael Proctor. This season the 4-0 demolition of Crystal Palace made us all believe that another escape act was possible and in 2005/06 a 2-0 win at the Riverside made us believe that maybe we weren’t destined for another record-low relegation after all.
Of course, we were, but let’s forget that for a moment and let’s reminisce on the lads recording their first top flight win since that Proctor’s late winner over Liverpool almost three years previously.
The victory came out of nowhere, Sunderland had endured a miserable start to the season and had avoided defeat just once in their opening six games. The previous week they had drawn against West Brom in heartbreaking fashion at the Stadium of Light after a late Zoltan Gera goal cruelly denied us our first win of the season.
But a week later we would fly out of the blocks on Teesside - the invisible man himself, Tommy Miller, fired home inside 90 seconds after some improvised link-up play to send the travelling fans into delirium.
Boro hit back quickly and would have leveled the scores if it wasn’t for a point blank save by Kelvin Davis, after Christian Bassila sliced his clearance into the path of Yakubu. Davis was called into action again as he palmed a fierce drive from George Boateng.
The rest of the first half passed without much incident but it reignited in the second period when referee Howard Webb overruled his linesman to award Sunderland a free kick on the edge of the area. Despite the offside flag, Webb decided that there had already been a foul on Andy Gray and Julio Arca took full advantage by curling the ball into the top corner to spark more joyous scenes in the Sunderland end.
As I previously mentioned, football has an ability to provide us with hope and joy and over ten years, and even though I know that we only recorded two more league wins all season, that image of our players celebrating in front of the travelling fans never fails to bring a smile to my face.
In the closing stages of the game the lads were rarely threatened as they comfortably secured a rare win.
Sunderland won away from home, kept a clean sheet, Tommy Miller scored a goal, Kelvin Davis was in inspired form and Howard Webb made a decision in our favour - solid proof that anything is possible.