On this day in 2010, Steve Bruce handed starting debuts to four new signings as Sunderland started the new campaign at home to Birmingham City.
Simon Mignolet, thrust into first team action much earlier than expected after arriving from Sint-Truiden for £2m as back up to Craig Gordon (spending £2m on a back-up keeper – those were the days!) started in goal – injury, surprisingly, ruling the Scot out.
Ahead of him were fellow debutantes Nedham Onuoha – on loan from Manchester City – and Titus Bramble, who’d arrived from Bruce’s former club, Wigan Athletic.
Ahmed Elmohamady – or, as his shirt originally bore, Al-Muhammadi – completed the first XI debutant quartet. Cristian Riveros and Danny Welbeck made their bow from the bench.
What should have been a routine opening day win took a significant turn for the worst in the 43rd minute when, with Sunderland 1-0 up thanks to a Darren Bent penalty, inexperienced referee Anthony Taylor brandished an incredibly harsh second yellow in Cattermole’s direction, and the newly-appointed captain trudged down the tunnel minutes before he intended to.
Both of Cattermole’s yellows that day were ridiculously harsh. They were – probably – both fouls, admittedly. however Taylor let a number of other, far worse, challenges go unpunished. And faced the wrath of the crowd at half time.
Still, when you’re on a yellow, it’s best to avoid putting your foot in. Advice Cattermole, on more than one occasion, failed to take.
Despite the set-back, things were going rather smoothly, especially when ex mag Stephen Carr put through his own goal to double the scoreline.
Of course, Sunderland rarely do ‘rather smoothly’ very well.
The introduction of 6.75 foot Serbian striker Nikola Zigic – signed from Valencia for £6m after appearing in the World Cup – caused predictable panic, and the men from the Midlands laid siege to Mignolet’s goal.
The Belgian, who’d seemed relatively comfortable when faced with little to do, suddenly transformed into a bag of nerves – and with Seb Larsson bombing crosses into the box, what confidence Mignolet had was disappearing at a rate of knots.
With 13 minutes to go, Dann’s header – from a Larsson cross – squirmed through the legs of Mignolet, who had taken residence in no-mans-land.
After holding out more by luck than judgement, we seemed to be heading for a hard-fought three points, but another Larsson delivery, moments from time, found Mignolet again flapping more than a chip-hungry seagull, and Ridgewell’s header found the net via Richardson’s boot.
It could, and should, have been worse – and if the game had lasted a few minutes longer it no doubt would have been. Zigic crashed a shot off the bar in injury time, and Taylor’s subsequent full-time whistle preserved the draw.
Still, a point’s a point. And it set us on our way to finish tenth, y’kna.