The sun was shining on Wearside as we welcomed Champions League hopefuls Spurs to the Stadium of Light on the opening day of the 2007-08 season. Roy Keane had overseen a summer of transfers with no fewer than eight first team signings made before the Spurs game on Saturday 11th August, and the fans were excited ahead of the coming campaign.
Our opening game presented us with the opportunity to start on the right footing heading into a season where survival was the only real expectation. Roy Keane presented to us in his programme notes exactly what he was expecting from the game and the coming season - noting how crucial the fans would be.
At the start of every year I hear managers talking about the role the fans have to play and I don’t think anyone should underestimate the massive role our supporters have in helping the team.
The summer of 2007 was filled with excitement and hope. Prior to the Spurs game Sunderland smashed the British goalkeeper transfer record with the £9 million purchase of Scotland International Craig Gordon. The signing of Gordon showed the ambition of the club, considering the former Hearts man had been heavily linked to a host of Premier League sides prior to his arrival.
Sunderland have the fan base, the stadium and the manager to continue to make enormous strides. They are a huge club and are still one of the best in the country in terms of support and facilities.
Our captain for the 2007-08 season was Dean Whitehead, who had seen his second promotion as a Sunderland player during the 2006-07 season. Whitehead was an impressive figure in the Championship but had plenty to prove in the Premier League - especially considering his last campaign saw Sunderland collect a mere 15 points.
Whitehead had only been at the club since 2004, but was one of the longest serving members of the squad at the time. The former Oxford midfielder was quick to praise the support of the fans in his programme notes while anticipating a very difficult afternoon against Spurs.
Our support last season was first class as always and we’re delighted to have done well enough for you to have Barclays Premier League football to watch again.
Niall Quinn was also on hand in the programme to offer some insight into what the rest of the summer had to offer regarding transfers. He admitted there was some uncertainty, but work was being conducted behind the scenes to ensure Keane had a strong squad at his disposal.
In general though Quinn was delighted with our transfer business up to that point, and with everything happening at the club.
We have strengthened the squad throughout the summer and that strengthening is still ongoing. The transfer window is open until the end of the month, it doesn’t close today so there is still the opportunity to bring players in if we choose to do so.
Arguably our biggest outfield signing of the summer was the acquisition of Kieran Richardson, arriving from Manchester United for a fee of around £5 million. The England U21 international was happy to leave Old Trafford after finding first team opportunities limited, and Sunderland became the perfect club for the young player to become a first-team regular.
Richardson was quick to mention how important Roy Keane was in his decision to move to Wearside, mentioning how he turned down other teams to join the Roy-volution at Sunderland.
There was interest from other clubs but the gaffer is a great man and hopefully he can get the best out of me as he did when I played alongside him.
Sunderland: Gordon, Etuhu, Nosworthy, McShane, Edwards, Whitehead, Stokes (Chopra, 72), Richardson (Collins, 72), Murphy, Yorke (Miller, 58), Wallace. Subs: Ward, Connolly.
Spurs: Robinson, Chimbonda, Stalteri, Kaboul, Gardner, Tainio (Bent, 59), Jenas, Zokora (Huddlestone, 87), Malbranque, Keane, Berbatov (Defoe, 77). Subs: Cerny, Rocha.
Well, the game wasn’t exactly a thriller for the Sky cameras; however, it was a welcome return to the Premier League for Sunderland. Michael Chopra endeared himself to the Sunderland faithful after a clinical strike with barely seconds left on the clock which guided Sunderland to an opening day victory.
Spurs never really got going that game and if truth be told they didn’t really play very well until about October, when Martin Jol was sacked. In that game we also saw future Sunderland players Pascal Chimbonda, Younes Kaboul, Teemu Tainio, Darren Bent, Steed Malbranque and Jermain Defoe playing for Spurs - who would have predicted that those six would pull on a red and white shirt in the years to come?
It's a great start to the season for us. The players did fantastically well and they showed great desire to win the game so late on for us. The whole group of players deserve a lot of credit. It's always nice to get points on the board.
We looked comfortable, but we didn't look creative. Our defence did well, but we have do better from the midfield, from the flanks and up front as well. A draw would have been disappointing for me. It was a boring game, but we couldn't even protect the draw.
I’ll leave you with a clip of that magical Chopra goal.