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Memories of humping Ipswich, Roker Park & Sunderland 4th in the top flight; three classic clashes!

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Remember when the SOL was always full, we hardly lost and Lambton’s adorned our shirts? Those were times when we could approach a match against Ipswich Town with a far more prevalent sense of optimism. Let’s take a look back at some of those occasions...

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Sunderland v Ipswich Town Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images

Sunderland 1-0 Ipswich Town - Roker Park - 20/02/96

Midweek games at Roker Park under the floodlights are something I’d give my left nut to have back. The smell of a Roker pie, the tramplings of the terracing and the sights of the scoreboard that didn’t want to work are all priceless memories in their own ways. To be back in the Clockstand sitting on those little red beams as a Lad of barely ten years with my Dar is something I’ll never forget - but sadly it’s something I’ll never get back.

Sorry, I got all sentimental on you there. Where were we? Ah yes, in our first classic clash, we look at a game that started our run of consecutive wins and pushed us to an eventual promotion in Peter Reid’s first full season as manager.

From memory, it was a rearranged game and Ipswich had this weird sort of tie-dyed, bleached home kit. It was truly rancid - thankfully for us, our form was not.

Loan signings Shay Given and Terry Cooke were in the squad as we looked to put pressure on league leaders Derby County in the automatic promotion places, and top scorer Craig Russell made sure that was the case as a game of few chances was decided with a 38th minute strike.

We’d go on to win the next eight games in a row, securing the Division One title in the process. Choss!


Sunderland 2-1 Ipswich Town - Stadium of Light - 17/01/99

Isn’t it infuriating how good football used to be, in literally every respect?

Rekindle those memories of Quinn leaping like a gazelle to a Summerbee cross, Micky Gray and Allan Johnston understanding each other telepathically, programmes costing £1.70 and the Grange not being a “family” pub. The days where Quinny found his Indian summer, Kevin Phillips was emerging as a genuine legend and Kevin Ball wore the armband were truly spectacular ones. Oh man - happy days.

The season beforehand though, Ipswich had broken my heart; beating us 2-0 midweek to condemn us to the bloody play-offs which put us through the torture of missing out on what would have been a deserved promotion. Those bastards. I was only 11, have some mercy!

A season later though and we were destroying everyone in our sight, opening up a gap at the top of the table akin to ones seen at the Grand Canyon. It goes without saying that the Stadium of Light was packed to the rafters every single week.

We burst out the traps and come the half hour mark we were two nil up - a certain Sir Niall tapping in a second following a trademark header. Although our old foe Matt Holland did pull one back shortly after, a resolute second half performance put us on course for our third win in four. We ended up winning the league by what felt like a thousand points.


Sunderland 4-1 Ipswich Town - Stadium of Light - 01/01/01

Just over seventeen years ago Sunderland and Ipswich were sides lauded for their hard work and organisation, with both teams pushing the Premier League big boys all the way in the race for Europe. The Tractor Boys had a fresh faced poacher named Marcus Stewart and the Lads named Kevin Phillips and Julio Arca in their starting eleven. You really don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, do you?

Ipswich arrived in fifth, with ourselves sitting in just ahead of them in fourth. George Burley had managed to maintain the momentum from promotion, with the nucleus of his young squad staying together during the transition to the top tier and it was themselves who took the lead in the fifth minute - Matty Holland proving once again to be a thorn in our side, threading through Marcus Stewart to open the scoring early on.

Little did we know, but this would turn into our biggest win of the season come the end of ninety minutes.

A glorious Julio Arca free kick restored parity on twenty five minutes before the second half saw a much improved display from us, and it wasn’t long before Kevin Phillips showcased his natural composure, slotting past his England team mate Richard Wright after some great work from Danny Dichio.

Phillips would return the favour less than ten minutes later, teeing up his strike partner for the day to prepare the seal for what would turn out to be a comfortable win.

A late Stefan Schwarz tap in on 88 minutes would put us joint second as we entered the new year and as I type all of this I ask myself - where did it all go so wrong?