It seems for a second time, Sunderland are banking on the previous goalscoring prowess of Danny Graham. There were a few shoots of hope with Graham only one reasonable connection away from opening his League One account for us against Charlton at the weekend.
Some fans may forget how exciting his first arrival was, under Martin O’Neill, following a purple patch in his final games for Swansea. But as Graham consistently failed to find the net, the Gateshead born striker quickly fell out of favour on Wearside.
As many clubs have found to their cost, unearthing a good striker can be the difference between winning the league or finishing runner-up, making the play-offs or falling short, and of course, staying up or relegation.
Sunderland more than most have struggled to get the best from their forward line, especially in recent times. Most of us find it hard to fathom. So, for the younger fans it might surprise them to know just how prolific Sunderland’s forward line once was. Certainly, Super Kev’s legend is never too far away. While Niall Quinn’s legacy is intertwined in the very fabric of the modern football club.
What we would now give for one, or both of those forwards today. But even in the runaway season of 1998/99, Reidy’s men wouldn’t have achieved what they did without the additional re-emergence of ‘stickman’, Michael Bridges.
Although both Quinn and Phillips managed a staggering 20 plus goals apiece during that magnificent season they also suffered numerous injuries throughout.
But while injuries could have derailed the promotion push it allowed Bridges to show just what he was capable of. Including a memorable display at Sheffield United where current Mags boss, Steve Bruce, decided to retire from playing following a humiliating afternoon inflicted on the former Man Utd captain by the young Mickey Bridges.
In his own right Bridges could have proved an absolute legend on Wearside but for the formidable and inseparable partnership of Quinny and Super Kev. There were probably a number of reasons for Bridges’ departure from the Stadium of Light following promotion, some might suggest the lack of opportunities as a major factor. Bridges would be one of the first big money signings during Leeds United’s ill-fated policy of investment in potential.
Bridges made the move from the shadows at the Stadium of Light into the limelight of Elland Road bagging 19 Premier League goals in his debut season.
But after his mind was made up, Peter Reid never looked back. Although the former understudy was banging in the goals, Phillips and Quinn was prolific as ever - taking Premier League defences by storm.
Quinny managed double figures while the prolific Phillips managed a superb 30-goal season in the top flight of English football and grabbing the European Golden Shoe.
How much would a 60 plus goalscoring trio be worth in today’s market?
We probably didn’t truly appreciate the side that won promotion that year, sadly. Or know how lucky we were to watch such players in their pomp. Apart from those three, we’ve only really seen two, maybe three top-drawer forwards pull on the Red & White shirt in the 20 years since that breathtaking era.
While today the elephant in the room appears to be why on earth have the club gone from boasting three top-class strikers to struggling for one half-decent one?