On this day in 1999, Sunderland made it five home wins in a row and maintained their unbeaten start to their first Premier League season at the Stadium of Light. A monster crowd of 41,904, the largest of the season so far, turned out on a Halloween Saturday afternoon to watch a Sunderland side packed with what are now, rightly, considered club legends take on the reigning League Cup winners, Tottenham Hotspur.
Looking back through the Spurs starting eleven, the big name players like England centre back Sol Campbell, Euro ‘96 winner Steffen Freund and Norwegian striker Steffen Iverson could have terrified Peter Reid’s newly-promoted Sunderland side, but they had been in UEFA Cup action in the week leading up to the game and with started England Under 18 and Under 20 international, John Piercy, up front.
The Black Cats had veteran Steve Bould at the back, summer signings Stefan Schwarz and Eric Roy in the midfield, and the classic Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips combination up front. The game is probably best remembered for the two beautiful first half goals from Quinn, who had previously failed to find the net at home in the Premiership.
Sir Niall’s first was a volley buried the bottom left corner from a textbook Micky Gray cross from the left; Quinn ghosted into acres of space in the box and his first-time shot gave Ian Walker no chance. The second Quinn strike, a beautifully deft finish after chesting down a nice ball in from the right, must surely count as one of the best out of his 69 goals for the club.
Such was Sunderland’s dominant performance in the first half, both the youngster Piercy and former Newcastle star, David Ginola, were subbed off at half time as George Graham looked to find a way back into the game.
Despite the away side improving after the break, perhaps the biggest scare for Sunderland as the darkness drew in during the second half was the withdrawal of Kevin Phillips, who had scored 11 goals in 12 games before this game, on 61 minutes. He collided with his England colleagues Campbell and Walker when all three challenged for a loose ball on the edge of the Spurs box.
Almost immediately after Danny Dichio came on to take Super Kev’s place, Spurs pulled a goal back through Iversen. But it wasn’t enough for the Londoners to come back from the dead, and the Lads held on to the lead to claim yet another top flight victory.
Phillips recovered in time to play in Sunderland’s next fixture away at Middlesbrough the following weekend, but Sunderland’s almost supernatural unbeaten run would come to an end a couple of weeks later, with a 2-0 defeat at home against Liverpool.
However, there would be more memorable victories to come as we pushed to our highest league position for since 1954-55. Former club CEO John Fickling has described this period in the club’s history as our “halcyon days” and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment; Sunderland would remain firmly in the top four of the FA Carling Premiership until after the turn of the new millennium and finish the season, frustratingly, just outside the European qualification places in seventh.
You can relive Quinny’s goals in the video below (although the sound quality isn’t the best).