Jingle bells, jingle bells jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see Sunderland win away, hey!
Saturday 21’st December 2008: Steed Malbranque fires in an aboluste screamer, Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse dance in front of the away end before having their choreographed celebration ruined by Nyron Nosworthy piling over the top of them. Brilliant - what an absolutely stupendous time to be alive that was.
Just weeks after Roy Keane had left the Stadium of Light a revolution was afoot. Our reluctant hero, Ricky Sbragia, had masterminded back-to-back wins, scoring 8 goals and conceding just one in the process. Naturally, this didn’t last and we picked up just three more wins between Christmas and the end of the season, but compared to our current form such a record is up there with the all-conquering Barcelona side of 2008-2010.
So, forget our current situation, pour yourself a drink and remember that glorious day on Humberside.
Despite disposing of West Brom 4-0 the previous week, Sunderland were not in a rich vein of form going into the game. After beating Newcastle on October 25th, the lads had lost 6 of their last 8 games and remained in the bottom three.
However, a spirited display at Old Trafford coupled with the win over West Brom meant the traveling Sunderland fans had reasons to be optimistic. Sbragia noted that he had, “Given the players more responsibility. They are adults and we shouldn't come down on them. We talk all the time.” Whatever he was doing was working, and after the previous weekend’s emphatic victory, fans travelled to Hull eyeing an important win.
Their hopefulness proved to be justified when Steed Malbranque impressively found the corner of the net from outside the Hull penalty area. But despite the flying start, we contrived to throw away our early dominance and allowed Nick Barmy to level. We failed to deal with Myhill’s long ball into the penalty area and despite Marton Fulop making an excellent save from Michael Turner, Barmby converted the rebound to equalise for the Tigers.
The goal gave Hull confidence and they could twice have gone in front. First Anton Ferdinand managed a last-ditch block to stop a Barmby drive, before Geovanni saw a shot saved by Fulop. The Brazilian then thought he had scored with a 30-yard free-kick soon after, but again he was denied by Fulop who flew across his line to pull off a quite simply stunning save.
Fortunately, we made it through to half time and produced a second half display quite out of keeping with what we’ve come to expect from Sunderland over recent years. We controlled the game and although we didn’t create many clear-cut chances we looked like the only team capable of winning.
But just as it looked like the afternoon might end up frustrating Sunderland, they found the breakthrough with ten minutes left on the clock. Kieran Richardson hit a shot from distance which deflected off Hull City defender, Zayatte, and past the hapless Boaz Myhill. Advantage Sunderland, and if truth be told many would have been happy had the scoreline remained unchanged, including Sbragia:
At 2-1, I would have settled for that scoreline, but they had a player sent off which made things easier for us and we showed we can be ruthless. In other games this season, we haven't carried things through after going one-up, but this time we dug in deep as a team and it worked out for us.
Most long-suffering, massive lad’s fans would have anticipated a long final ten minutes, but the lads ran riot in the closing stages. First Sam Ricketts was sent off for two bookable offences before Jones headed home a drilled cross. In stoppage time designer-facial-hair-wearing Djirbril Cisse wrapped up a brilliant afternoon with a powerful finish. The win catapulted us out of the bottom three to the dizzy heights of 12th place. 12th place, man!
I’m just going to end my throwback here, and go and sit in a dark room and reminisce over a side that contained Cisse, Malbranque and the greatest footballer to grace this earth: Nyron Nosworthy.
Ricky Sbragia’s Red and White army!