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Top Five: Sunderland’s opening day of the season victories! VOTE for your favourite

As we approach the curtain raiser against Derby County this Friday, we look back at our top five of previous opening day victories.

Kevin Phillips and Titus Bramble tussle for the ball in our 1-0 opening win during the 2001/02 season.

5. Sunderland 1-0 Queens Park Rangers - 8/8/98

The season opener against the R’s in 1998 was by no means a classic, but it can’t be underestimated how important it was to start that season on the front foot.

Kevin Phillips of Sunderland
Super Kev celebrates his opening day penalty.

As we all recall fondly, we’d go on to demolish almost every team that dared turn up to the Stadium of Light that year. However, in our first meaningful game after that soul-crushing play off final defeat, a handball on the line from Ian Baraclough gave Kevin Phillips the opportunity to set us up for a glorious campaign from twelve yards out - dusting off the cobwebs of the disappointment at Wembley nicely.

We’d go on to be unbeaten in our next twenty three matches, only suffering three league defeats in the entire campaign. Ah... those were the days.

4. Swindon Town 0-2 Sunderland - 19/8/89

In 1989/90 we would end our league campaign just as we began it - with a game against Ossie Ardiles’ Swindon Town.

Gordon Armstrong wearing the outstanding golden yellow Hummel away kit on the opening day at Swindon.

Despite losing to them in the play-off final that season, we were victorious on the opening day against our soon-to-be nemesis with a solid 2-0 win at the County Ground.

An early strike from Eric Gates set the Lads on their way, before an injury to Gary Bennett threatened to disrupt our positive start. However highly rated youngster Warren Hawke came off the bench and sealed the game with ten minutes to go, volleying past Fraser Digby in the Swindon goal with a sublime effort - all whilst wearing our classic golden yellow Hummel number from that year.

3. Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Sunderland - 15/8/09

Ah...our last opening day win - EIGHT YEARS AGO.

What a day it was though! The Steve Bruce era started off in brilliant fashion with new £10m signing Darren Bent nodding his team into a fourth minute lead at the Reebok, sending 4000 of us in the away end absolutely crackers.

It was our first glimpse at the cult heroes Lee Barry Cattermole and Lorik Cana, battering the Bolton midfield into submission with the types of challenges we hadn’t seen since the days of Kevin Ball and Alex Rae.

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Premier League
Bent (out of frame) scores on his debut to start off a quality day down Greater Manchester.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

We all left Greater Manchester feeling supremely positive about our chances that season. Despite that early optimism, Brucey would go on to have his seasonal slump - finishing in 13th - despite being in the top eight up until November.

2. Sunderland 1-0 Arsenal - 19/8/00

Cast your minds back to the day that Arsene Wenger brought a side to Wearside that included Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, undone by a certain Slovakian centre half who made the best Sunderland debut of all time.

Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira is sent off for lashing out at Daz Williams.

Back in those days, the Stadium of Light was a fortress; not many sides fancied a trip to Wearside for a season opener. It was something an Arsenal debutant - and former Premier League player of the year - Robert Pires would attest to:

After 20 minutes of witnessing such intensity, such crazy tackles, I thought to myself – my God what I am doing in England?

This was the day which made me realise you needed not only skill to play in England - but a warrior spirit.

He was right too. Nobody came to Wearside in those days and got an easy ride, and when Niall Quinn met Micky Gray’s cross early in the second half, it looked like star-studded Arsenal would feel the full force of Reidy’s well driven, organised and tenacious side.

With Stanislav Varga having the game of his life behind a midfield of Holloway and Thirlwell, a frustrated Patrick Vieira managed to get himself sent off for lashing out at Darren Williams in the 90th. It was one of the best opening days in memory.

1.Sunderland 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur - 11/8/07

Could it have been any other game?

An early kick off on Wearside was met with great anticipation. Although free-spending Spurs were the first test for Roy Keane’s Sunderland, there was an air of confidence amongst the fans as we waited with baited breath to see what this newly energised Sunderland team could muster up - and we were not to be disappointed.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League
What a day.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane proved a stern test for big Nyron and new signing Paul McShane at the back, but a flawless performance from them both looked like helping us to a credible 0-0 draw. However, it was another debutant who would steal the headlines. Former Cardiff City striker Michael Chopra had joined the Lads in the summer with many supporters unsure about bringing on board the former Newcastle man, but in the blink of an eye all of that was forgotten.

Good work from Ross Wallace down the right hand side meant he managed to get a cross into the box that landed perfectly for the Geordie, who took one touch and placed home the ball into the corner past Paul Robinson - cue pandemonium.

With that goal we also went top of the league... at least for a few hours.


Which of the five games listed was your favourite?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    1-0 v QPR, 1998
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    2-0 v Swindon, 1989
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    1-0 v Bolton, 2009
    (16 votes)
  • 43%
    1-0 v Arsenal, 2000
    (89 votes)
  • 44%
    1-0 v Spurs, 2007
    (91 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now

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