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Tony Norman clangers, Roker Park in the 80s and ‘Slim’ Jim - THREE classic clashes v Brentford!

The West Londoners have never visited the Stadium of Light so this week’s edition of Classic Clashes is all about Roker Park - oh how I miss it.

Soccer - FA Cup Semi Final - Sunderland v Norwich City Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

Sunderland 2-0 Brentford - Roker Park - 20/02/88

Honestly lads, I’m not doing this on purpose! Subconsciously preparing for our inevitable relegation the League One has been on my mind for a while, but the third tier was mint last time we went there wasn’t it? We won loads and actually liked some of the players on the pitch. Yes, it seems like an alien concept just now, but this could all be ours in a matter of six small months.

Who doesn’t want to win just a few more games? Ah...well, I suppose we said this last year too and...


We hadn’t moved from top spot in four months and we never looked like dropping points as Gary Owers scored one in the 27th minute. Denis Smith’s side went on to dominate the side from London who were no match for what was simply the best side in the third tier at that time.

Keith Bertschin added the clincher just before half time, making the second half pretty much a breeze and as forgettable as it was comfortable. As already stated, we went onto win the league by a clear nine points, continuing our revival under Denis Smith, whereas Brentford remained mid-table for the duration of the campaign and ended in twelfth.

Sunderland 5-2 Brentford - Roker Park - 28/01/67

Our FA Cup tie all the way back in the late 60’s was all about Scottish internationals Neil Martin and “Slim” Jim Baxter and his magic feet.

They weren’t the only ones on their game that day though, as an impressive second half comeback saw the eleven in red and white roared on from the terraces of the Fulwell as they dismantled a Brentford side who had been in the lead up until the 49th minute.

Both players were approaching the end of their time at the club but performed brilliantly, with former Hibs striker Martin adding a brace to his take his goal scoring tally into double figures for the season; although he had long since justified the £45,000 price tag that came with his move back in 1965.

A blisteringly impressive second half period saw goals from George Mulhall, Slim Jim and John O’Hare add to Martin’s brace and turn what looked like being a narrow defeat into one of the biggest wins of the season to send the Roker Park crowd home happy.

A below par season would see Sunderland finish in 17th, with a poor away record proving to the beginning of the end for Ian McColl who left the following season after a run of no wins in fourteen- replaced eventually by former manager Alan Brown.

Sunderland 1-3 Brentford - Roker Park - 12/12/92

Little did we know but this end-to-end clash would be the last time the West Londoners would visit Roker Park and for us it’ll be remembered for one of those rare - yet slightly impressive - Tony Norman clangers.

With both sides battling the drop to the third tier, Brentford came to Roker in poor form, whereas we had managed to put a run of three wins together and lifted the doom and gloom that had began to gather following our previous season’s cup exploits.

Looking to make it four wins on the bounce, Brian Mooney was unlucky with a header that pinged off the bar in the very early stages, but just as we looked to take control Phil Holder’s team took the Lads by surprise however and took an early lead through Gary Blissett, who fired in a volley following poor marking from a corner at the Roker End.

Crosby’s side did respond well though and dominated the rest of the first half, gaining parity from a Shaun Cunnington tap in just before half time before otherwise dependable goalie Tony Norman dropped one of his rare clangers, allowing a Brentford cross to go straight through his arms to restore their lead through Michael Bennett.

The Lads didn’t recover well and Brentford continued to pepper our goal, before sealing the win with a Blissett free kick six minutes from time. It was ourselves who would have the last laugh though - finishing one place and one point above them as they tumbled down into Division Two.

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