After a disappointing start to the Premier League campaign eighteen years ago, Peter Reid’s Sunderland were desperate for a confidence boost. The opportunity to do just that came in the form of a League Cup second round tie against Division Three side Cambridge United.
After finishing one place above the relegation zone the previous season, Reid was eager for a better season at the Stadium of Light. Despite big money being spent on the forward duo Tore Andre Flo and Marcus Stewart, the season had not got off to the best of starts. Two wins and four defeats in the opening eights games, including a 2-0 defeat to rivals Newcastle United, meant Sunderland sat 16th in the Premier League.
In the previous game, Sunderland had managed a victory at the Stadium of Light against Graham Taylor’s Aston Villa where the only goal of the game was scored by David Bellion, which dragged Sunderland out of the relegation zone.
The League Cup presented an escape from the pressures of the Premier League. And, in Cambridge United, an opposition that gave an opportunity for new boys Tore Andre Flo and Marcus Stewart to get off the mark with their new club.
Despite the lower league opposition, Reid fielded a strong side with the aim of boosting confidence levels ahead of an important game at Highbury against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal.
Despite the poor League form, Sunderland got into their stride by taking the lead through midfield star Claudio Reyna after twenty-one minutes. Unfortunately for Sunderland, the USA international would suffer an anterior cruciate ligament injury later in the month that would rule him out for the rest of the season.
Four minutes later Gavin McCann added a second and it would stay that way until half-time as Cambridge managed to stay in the game at the end of the first half. Almost ten minutes into the second half Sunderland would put the game beyond any doubt by scoring a third through Julio Arca before Marcus Stewart scored two in two minutes just after the hour.
To put the icing on the cake for Peter Reid, Tore Andre Flo would also grab a brace in the last fifteen minutes as Sunderland won by seven goals to nil.
This would prove to be Peter Reid’s last victory in charge at Sunderland as he would be sacked after seven years as Sunderland manager following a 3-1 defeat in our next game at Arsenal.
Some would argue he left a year too late and some would argue he should have stayed on in 2002, but not many could argue that for a while during his seven years as manager, it was a great time to be a Sunderland fan.
Tuesday 1st October 2002 - League Cup 2nd round
Cambridge United 0 - 7 Sunderland
Sunderland: Myhre, Williams, Craddock, Babb, Arca (Butler), Bellion, McCann, Reyna (Thirlwell), Kilbane (McCartney), Flo, Stewart; Substitutes not used: Sorensen, Kyle
Cambridge United: Marshall, Goodhind, Warner (Nacca), Fleming, Angus, Wanless (Guttridge), Bridges, Tudor, Kitson (Chillingworth), Youngs, Riza; Substitutes not used: Brennan, Tann
Referee: Paul Danson (Leicestershire)