On this day in 1983, Sunderland supporters were waking up to the news that we’d continued our good pre-season run of form with a narrow victory over Port Vale the evening before.
A Colin West goal gave Alan Durban’s men the win in a game that was the fourth of seven pre-season fixtures in the run up to the season kicking off on 27 August.
Victories over an Isle of Man XI, Burnley and St Mirren had preceded the game at Vale Park, as the team claimed the Gore Gold Cup, while wins over Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough and Darlington completed a 100% pre-season calendar.
Never the most prolific of scorers, the 21-year-old West had only managed three goals in 23 appearances the season before, but his pre-season form won him a place in the starting line up for the opening fixture at home to Norwich, netting an equaliser mere minutes after future Sunderland striker Keith Bertschin had put the Canaries in front.
Durban, of course, was very harshly sacked later that season, replaced by former Sunderland defender Len Ashurst – a change that would have a major impact on a number of the talented players he’d assembled together, including West.
Ashurst controversially left the striker out of the team to face Norwich in the Milk Cup Final, after West had scored three in the two-legged semi against Chelsea – including a penalty.
Days later, he was transferred to Watford as Sunderland plummeted down the table and into Division Two.
West went on to play for Rangers – during Souness’s English revolution – and Sheffield Wednesday, before signing for West Brom.
During the 89-90 season, in a fixture against Sunderland at the Hawthorns, West played the vast majority of the game in goal, taking the gloves from the injured Paul Bradshaw midway through the first half.
He was on course for a clean sheet, and a victory thanks to Don Goodman’s late goal, before Gabbiadini slotted past West to equalise.