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On This Day: 8 August 1990 - Smith in hot pursuit of striker to strengthen Sunderland’s attack

Sunderland manager Denis Smith was seeking reinforcements to his forward line, and had his sights set on one of his former York City strikers.

John Trewick of Oxford and John Byrne of Queens Park Rangers

On this day in 1990, Denis Smith was searching for attacking reinforcements to boost the squad ahead of the First Division campaign.

With the addition of Peter Davenport to replace the departed Eric Gates already secure, news of a long-term injury to Colin Pascoe had prompted Smith to turn to Le Havre’s Byrne, who’d been part of Eire’s Italia 90 squad.

Soccer - International Friendly - Malta v Ireland
Manchester-born Byrne played 23 times for Ireland, bagging four goals.
Photo by Phil O’Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images

Smith admitted this was the third time he’d tried to bring his former York City and QPR striker to Sunderland – attempts for him to join the club in the third division and then again during 89-90 had been unsuccessful.

“The deal would have to be a lot better than when we enquired about him earlier in the season, because then it was a non starter,” said Smith.

Unfortunately, that was the case this time too. With Smith unable to agree terms, Byrne ended up signing for second division Brighton.

Denis did eventually get his man, albeit two years later, with Byrne one of the three players brought in with the Marco money - Anton Rogan and Don Goodman being the other two – shortly after scoring for Brighton against us at Roker Park.

Soccer - FA Cup Semi Final - Sunderland v Norwich City
At the fourth time of asking, Byrne arrived at Roker Park. It was certainly worth the wait.
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

After waiting for Byrne for so long, it was a cruel twist of fate that Smith was sacked 12 games after Byrne’s arrival – and had to watch on as his long-term target shot Malcolm Crosby’s side to Wembley.

It’s always a regret that Byrne didn’t get the opportunity to play alongside Gabbiadini. Byrne, a clever, intelligent and skilful player would have complemented Marco superbly. If they’d have been paired together for that 1990-91 season, who knows how the campaign would have unravelled.

After taking so long to arrive at Roker, it’s also regretful his spell didn’t last anywhere near as long as it should have done. Barely a year after arriving, he headed off to Millwall – with 15 goals in 43 games to his name.