On this day in 1999, Peter Reid’s Sunderland side took on fellow Premier League club Wimbledon in a League Cup Third Round clash at Selhurst Park.
After a heavy opening day defeat to Chelsea, we’d made an impressive start to our first season back – and came into this clash off the back of four straight Premier League wins, scoring 12 and conceding none. This run of fixtures included a 5-0 away win at Derby and a 4-0 win at Bradford on 2 October. Because of the international break, this had been our previous fixture.
Not surprisingly, Peter Reid shuffled the team around, making six changes in total to the starting eleven.
Summer signings John Oster, Eric Roy and Carsten Fredgaard came in for Stefan Schwarz, Gavin McCann and Kevin Phillips, while Andy Marriott replaced Sorensen in goal, Darren Williams came in for Steve Bould, and Danny Dichio replaced Quinny.
Sunderland’s starting XI
Marriott, Makin, Williams, Butler, Gray; Summerbee, Rae, Roy, Oster; Dichio, Fredgaard.
With the scores 0-0 at half time, Reid brought on Ball and McCann for Rae and Roy, and we took the lead on 67 through a Dichio strike.
The advantage lasted mere moments.
Future Newcastle striker Carl Cort levelled the scoreline and, in response, Reid made his third and final sub – throwing on young Irishman Michael Reddy with 20 minutes of normal time remaining.
The 19-year-old had been another summer signing. He’d been spotted by chief scout Andy King, and while the £30,000 paid to Kilkenny City failed to grab the headlines moves for Schwarz and Bould, for example, did, it was a signing Reid was very excited about – describing Reddy as the most talented youngster he’d seen.
Maybe that was true, maybe it was a bit of Reidy PR to deflect attention away from the recently departed Michael Bridges, maybe it was something in between. Either way, it was high praise.
Cort secured the win for Wimbledon with two extra time goals to complete his hat-trick – a last-minute goal by Kevin Ball providing meagre consolation.
Still, Reddy had done enough to impress, and kept his place on the bench for the next game, a televised fixture with Aston Villa. Entering the last ten minutes, Reid turned to the young Irishman and within a minute Kevin Phillips had scored his second of the game to put us 2-1 in front.
Reddy impressed again, scraping the crossbar with a long range effort.
His second league outing from the bench came at the Riverside Stadium as we did battle with Middlesbrough. And battle is the right word. A tempestuous affair saw Makin red-carded for two yellows after just half and hour, and we picked up a further six yellows through the course of the game.
After surviving waves of ‘Boro attacks, we finally succumbed to a goal from the Colombian striker Hamilton Ricard. Reddy – the final sub – was brought on immediately, and within two minutes he’d equalised, pouncing to net the rebound after Phillips’ penalty was saved by Schwarzer.
Incredibly, throughout his Sunderland career, he only went on to make a further eight appearances from the bench, six during the 99-00 season, the remainder coming the following season. He was granted a couple of starts in the League Cup, netting his only other goal for the club away at Luton in a 2-1 win, but never made the starting XI for a league clash.
In his early days at Sunderland, Reddy won Young Player of the Year and was called up to the full Ireland squad. He was sent out on loan to develop and his first loan spell, at Swindon – where Andy King, the scout who’d spotted him, was now manager – was a huge success. He scored seven in eighteen games, promoting Reid to put a £5m valuation on his head. A brief, five-game spell at Hull, where he scored four, seemed to reaffirm this price tag.
Despite this, he never played for Sunderland again. A training ground knee ligament injury hampering his career and, while he was on Sunderland’s books until 2004, he didn’t play another game for the Black Cats. Loan spells at Barnsley, York and Sheffield Wednesday, preceded his permanent departure to Grimsby in 2004, which followed a falling out with then-manager Mick McCarthy.
Speaking in 2005, 25-year-old Reddy said he stayed at Sunderland too long.
“I probably spent too much time at Sunderland. I wasted a lot of time in not playing regularly.
“I had a bit of a point to prove - I had my arguments with Mick McCarthy and was disappointed with the way things worked out at Sunderland.”
At Grimsby, Reddy became something of a hero – impressing with his speedy and skilful play. He scored 26 in 70 games, and was linked with moves to bigger clubs – Premier League Sheffield United were strongly linked, as were Leeds.
However, Reddy was suffering with a persistent hip injury, which led to his premature retirement from the game in 2007, aged just 27.
Since retiring, he’s worked in sales and digital marketing, and is now managing director and co-founder of CoachOut, a business which pairs sports coaches with sports people for personal training.
And, we’ll always have that goal at ‘Boro.