On this day in 2004, Sunderland’s strikers were bemoaning the lack of service, as the club’s start to the new season continued to stutter.
Having lost out in the play-offs the season before to Crystal Palace (foul on the keeper, anyone?), the team had notched one win, two draws and two defeats in the first five. And, after the second of those draws – at home to Wigan, thanks to a late Stephen Elliot equaliser, Scottish striker Kevin Kyle wasn’t happy.
“As a forward you’re only as good as the service you get, and I think we’re not getting any,” he said after a game in which the home side only managed one shot on target.
Kyle had played in every league game the season before, as well as seven cup and play-off games, scoring 16 goals. It’s easy to forget that he had developed into a player of genuine threat, and was attracting attention from the top flight – Crystal Palace were keen to take him to Selhurst Park during the summer.
However, a serious hip injury had a major impact on his campaign – in fact, the game against Wigan was his penultimate one of the season.
He sat out the rest of the campaign as Mick McCarthy was forced to change tactics – partnering two relatively small strikers, Stewart and Elliott together up front.
The change in approach worked wonders, with Sunderland building a good head of steam and winning the title.
He returned to the team almost 18 months later, scoring in his second game back against Manchester City in what would be Mick McCarthy’s final game as manager, before being sold to Coventry City in the summer of 2006.