The future looked bright for Roy Keane and Sunderland as they recorded a first victory over rivals Newcastle United for 28 years at the Stadium of Light in October 2008.
Thanks to a thunderbolt of a free-kick by Kieran Richardson, Sunderland claimed all three points with a 2-1 victory that also meant Roy Keane had won three of the first nine games as Sunderland sat 9th in the Premier League.
The ex-Manchester United captain had once again heavily invested to take his side to the next level, and players such as Pascal Chimbonda, Teenu Tainio, Steed Malbranque, El Hadji Diouf and Djibril Cisse were all new additions to the squad in the summer.
There was also a new owner of the club in the form of Ellis Short and rumours were gathering momentum that he was assessing his managers methods and there were early signs that relations were strained.
However, after beating our nearest and dearest at home things were looking up for the season ahead and relations between owner and manager would surely remain positive as long as results maintained a top half position in the Premier League.
Following that famous win, things did not quite go to plan. Sunderland lost five out of the next six games and after a 4-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers, Roy Keane stepped down as Sunderland manager as we occupied a place in the relegation zone.
Ricky Sbragia stepped up to take over as caretaker manager ahead of the next fixture at Old Trafford and was unfortunate to leave with a point after Nemanja Vidic claimed maximum points for the home side scoring a last minute winner.
The following Saturday, Sbragia took charge of his first home game and the side responded with a resounding 4-0 win over Tony Mowbray’s West Bromwich Albion, helped by a brace from Kenwyne Jones.
Despite the much needed three points, Sunderland still sat in a relegation place, with only Blackburn Rovers and West Bromwich Albion propping up Ricky Sbragia’s side at the bottom of the Barclays Premier League.
Next up was a trip to Phil Brown’s Hull City, who despite being Premier League new-boys, had adjusted quickly to the highest level and occupied 6th as the halfway mark in the season approached. The League table suggested Sunderland were in for a tough trip down the east coast but only ten minutes in, Steed Malbranque gave Sunderland the lead with a touch of class.
Receiving the ball on the edge of the penalty area, the ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder took one touch to control and then another to stroke the ball into the top corner giving Myhill no chance. Our lead lasted less than ten minutes however, when Nick Barmby pounced after a goalmouth scramble to level the score.
We then had to wait until the final twelve minutes for the game to come alive when Kieran Richardson’s speculative shot from 25-yards out took a huge deflection off the knee of Kamil Zayatte on the edge of the box, which completely changed the trajectory of the ball and once again gave Sunderland the lead.
Two minutes later Hull City were down to ten men when Sam Ricketts received a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Steed Malbranque near the touchline. It only took Sunderland three minutes to take advantage of the extra man, when Steed Malbranque once again turned the Hull City full-back inside out on the right wing and crossed for the unmarked Kenwyne Jones to give Sunderland breathing space with a two-goal lead.
In the final minute, the game was put out of sight of the home side when Djibril Cisse was played through in behind the Hull City defence and ran into the penalty area just right of centre, before drilling the ball into the bottom corner to make it 4-1.
The win lifted Sunderland back up to 12th in the Premier League, which was about as good as it got under the caretaker manager as we didn’t win another away game for the rest of the season and eventually finished 16th. Perhaps inevitably, Steve Bruce took over from Ricky Sbragia in the summer of 2009 and the ball was rolling on yet another early chapter in the ownership of Ellis Short.
Hull City: Myhill, Mendy, Ricketts, Boateng (Halmosi), Turner, Zayatte, Garcia (Cousin), Ashbee, King, Geovanni, Barmby (Giannakopoulos) Substitutes not used: Duke, Marney, Doyle, Windass
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Malbranque, Tainio (Leadbitter), Richardson (Edwards), Reid (Whitehead), Cisse, Jones Substitutes not used: Colgan, Murphy, Healy