On this day in 1980, 36-year-old Jimmy Montgomery returned to Roker Park on a two-year deal, three years after leaving the club.
Monty had left on a free transfer three years earlier, during what ended up being the ‘Coventry City’ relegation season. In the last home game of that campaign, he played his only ever game against Sunderland, keeping net for Birmingham in a 1-0 home victory courtesy of a late Mel Holden goal.
Future Sunderland coach and manager Ricky Sbragia, incidentally, lined up in the centre of Montgomery’s defence that day.
After two seasons at Birmingham, and with retirement on the cards, Jim was approached by former Sunderland teammate Brian Clough to spend a season as back-up to Peter Shilton at Nottingham Forest.
And so happened that he returned to Roker as a European Cup Winner. Two months earlier he’d sat on the bench in the Bernabeu as a John Robertson goal gave Cloughy’s team victory over Kevin Keegan’s Hamburg, and Forest their second successive European Cups.
Upon the second coming at Roker, manager Ken Knighton said:
I have no fears about bringing him back. He’s kept himself superbly fit and I would have no worries about pitching him into the First Division side if Chris Turner is injured or loses form. He will also be a great asset around the place, and we intend using him as a coach to the young keepers. I also feel he will bring the best out of Chris.
Part of the reason for signing Monty was that Barry Siddall was in a contract dispute with the club, and Knighton was resigned to him leaving after Siddall had informed him he didn’t want to play for the club again.
The situation was resolved eventually, with Siddall playing 15 games during ‘80-81 and Turner 27, and Montgomery wasn’t afforded the opportunity to add to his 627 games for the club, which still stands as a club record today.