On this day in 1987, Denis Smith was targeting striking reinforcements as his new side’s struggles in front of goal continued.
Smith, who’d only taken over a couple of month’s prior, had seen his side’s inaugural Division Three campaign start slowly in front of goal, with the team troubling the opposition net only three times in four – albeit two of these games fixtures against Middlesbrough in the League Cup.
Still, the inability of Keith Bertschin, Eric Gates and John Moore to trouble Boro keeper Stephen Pears at Ayresome Park two days earlier – as Sunderland succumbed to a 2-0 defeat, going out 2-1 on aggregate – had made his mind up that a new striker was needed.
“We aren’t putting away chances,” he bemoaned.
While the team took Smith’s words to heart, the strikers didn’t. The next six games brought ten goals – two wins, three draws and one defeat – but of the strikers only Bertschin notched; a double at Fellows Park in a 2-2 with Walsall.
Reinforcement finally arrived, of course, in the shape of Marco Gabbiadini, who ended up scoring 22 in 39 games in partnership with Eric Gates, who contributed 21 in 49.
However, had Smith’s intentions panned out, the G-Force may have never come into existence.
The initial idea was to pair Gabbiadini with Bertschin – a little and large combo – and in Marco’s first two games that was the case.
A fractured cheekbone for Bertschin before half time of that second game, however, saw the experienced striker – who’d only joined the club the previous March – ruled out for a long spell, and Gates took full advantage.