Burnley provided the opposition for two remarkable days during the 2006-07 promotion season. Of course, the most memorable is the evening game at the back end of the campaign that sealed promotion: Carlos Edwards’ goal and Crabbers’ commentary are special moments for any Sunderland supporter of that generation.
Any chance to relive that one...
Five months earlier, however, we travelled to Turf Moor to face a side then managed by Mr Notebook himself, Steve Cotterill.
If the home game in May encapsulated everything that Sunderland were about that season – fighting to the end, a team with genuine quality and a crowd that was united behind the board, manager and team – the away game was a defining point for the first of those.
Because, that season, Keane instilled a mentality that drove players on to the very last season. For the players it was believable; they’d grown up watching Keane drag Manchester United over the line so many times. It’s impossible to overstate just how big a name Keane was at that time.
Rescuing points and games late on became something of a hallmark for Sunderland that season, and it all started here.
Sunderland: Ward, Whitehead, Varga, Caldwell, Collins, Elliott, Yorke (Miller 62), Leadbitter, Wallace (Kavanagh 62), Murphy (Hysen 74), Connolly. Subs not used: Fulop, Nyatanga.
Future Sunderland striker Kyle Lafferty opened the scoring after nine minutes, slotting past Darren Ward, and he doubled Burnley’s lead seven minutes into the second half with another clinical finish after a poor header from Dwight Yorke.
Keane wasn’t afraid to make early subs, and Kavanagh and Miller replaced Yorke and Wallace just after the hour mark. Swedish winger Hysen – a sadly underused player that season – replaced Murphy with 16 minutes remaining.
Shortly after, we pulled one back – Leadbitter scoring one from range – and in the very last minute David Connolly, who’d struggled up to that point to really get among the goals, equalised in dramatic fashion. The Irish striker lifted the ball over the head of the defender before volleying in from 25 yards. Cue scenes.
After the game, Keane was predictably displeased – a mentality that showed everyone throughout the club just what he expected.
It was a disappointing performance. If you start slowly and give away a sloppy goal, you’re going to have a hard day.
You can’t keep giving yourselves a mountain to climb like we do.
To be fair to the players they keep climbing them but we hope to make it a little bit easier.
Without Burnley away, we may not have had Liam Miller’s winner against Derby. Or Connolly’s run of goals. Or Burnley at home. Or promotion.
It felt significant at the time – and it certainly played out that way.