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Haway Haway Haway! Relive Sunderland’s opening day classics

Ha’way, ha’way, haway! The new season’s here. To get you in the mood, we look back at some of Sunderland’s opening day classics from the past 30 years.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Opening day 1998/99: Philips nets penalty to clear play-off hangover

Sunderland QPR Phillips penalty
Phillips slots home to give Sunderland the win
Photo by Tom Buist - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Date: 8 August 1998
Venue: Stadium of Light
Opposition: QPR
Attendance: 40,537
Score: Sunderland 1-0 QPR
Line up: Sorensen, Gray, Craddock, Butler, Scott, Summerbee (Bridges 88), Clark (Williams 38), Ball, Johnston, Quinn, Phillips

After the season before ended in such heartbreaking fashion at Wembley, it was imperative that we got the new season off to a strong start. And we did, although – truth be told – it was a rather cagey affair. Reid’s pre-season focus was to strengthen the defence, to which he’d added keeper Thomas Sorensen and centre back Paul Butler, and it was clear that the team was determined to be solid, rather than the gung-ho approach we’d witnessed at times the previous year.

The game itself was marred by a broken leg sustained by Lee Clark before half time. The crack could be heard at the back of the East Stand, and it put a dampener on the whole occasion. Regardless of how Clark’s spell at the club ended, he was a superb player and was probably second only to Phillips in terms of importance to the team.

Still, we shook that disappointment off, and Phillips netted from the spot with 15 left to seal an incredibly important win – and the first 3 points of what would be a 105 point Championship winning total.

Opening day 2000/01: Stan’s the man! Varga stars on debut

Soccer - FA Carling Premiership - Sunderland v Arsenal Photo by Steve Morton/EMPICS via Getty Images

Date: 19 August 2000
Venue: Stadium of Light
Attendance: 46,346
Opposition: Arsenal
Score: Sunderland 1-0 Arsenal
Line up: Sorensen (Macho 45), Makin, Varga, Butler, Gray, Holloway, Roy (Williams 59), Thirlwell, Kilbane, Quinn (Reddy 79), Phillips.

Stan Varga’s debut. This was one of those ‘I was there’ games, that – just like the Kieron Brady game against West Ham in 1990. Varga had arrived during the summer; the Slovakian International being signed to strengthen a defence coming to terms with the fact that Steve Bould wasn’t going to last too much longer.

Imperious in defence, strong in the tackle, comfortable on the ball, Varga strode around the pitch, playing beautiful long balls, making timely interceptions and, at times, keeping the Arsenal attack – which during the course of the game featured Henry, Kanu, Ljungberg, Pires and Bergkamp – at bay almost singlehandedly.

Varga’s performance wasn’t the only thing of note. A first-half injury to Sorensen game new arrival Macho an early chance to impress, which he did, admirably. Niall Quinn grabbed the only goal of the game from a Gray cross shortly after half time and, as Macho and Varga kept Arsenal out, the Gunners’ frustration grew – Viera getting a last-minute red after clashing with Williams.

Opening day 2007/08: We are top of the league! Sub Chopra grabs last-gasp winner

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League
Get in!
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Date: 11 August 2007
Venue: Stadium of Light
Attendance: 43,967
Opposition: Tottenham Hotspur
Score: Sunderland 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Line up: Gordon, Whitehead, Nosworthy, McShane, Wallace, Edwards, Etuhu, Yorke (Miller 57), Richardson (Collins 72), Stokes (Chopra 72), Murphy

If you need an example of why Roy Keane is still so fondly remembered as manager by a certain generation of Sunderland supporters, this is it.

After storming to the Championship from a seemingly impossible position the season before, we barged into the Premier League with a whole host of Keane-inspired confidence. Keane was box office, and that was partly the reason why our opening day fixture against Spurs was the first of the season, televised live with a lunchtime kick-off.

All eyes were on new record-breaking goalkeeper Craig Gordon, who’d arrived earlier in the week, who was given a starting berth alongside fellow debutants Etuhu, McShane and Richardson.

Another new signing, the controversial Michael Chopra, had been welcomed with a fair degree of caution by supporters, but he made an instant impact after replacing Stokes late on in the game.

With the game seemingly set for a goalless draw, which would have been a respectable start in itself, Sunderland – as we frequently did under Keane – pushed and pushed for a winner. And it arrived from Chopra after Wallace – who’d been pushed further forward after starting the game at left-back – crossed from the right, and Chopra steered the ball past Paul Robinson – sending the crowd ecstatic.

It was the perfect result against a team featuring Chimbonda, Malbranque, Tainio, Defoe and Bent, and it out us, albeit briefly, top of the league.

Sunderland were back.

Opening day 2009/10: England international announces arrival in style

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Premier League
Bent heads home an early winner
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Date: 15 August 2009
Venue: Reebok Stadium
Attendance: 22,247
Opposition: Bolton Wanderers
Score: Bolton Wanderers 0-1 Sunderland
Line up: Fulop, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins McCartney, Malbranque (Henderson 46), Cana, Cattermole, Richardson (Campbell 76), Jones, Bent.

Under new manager Steve Bruce we seemed to have been transformed into a serious Premier League team overnight. Lorik Cana had arrived with much expectation – particularly thanks to some wonderful YouTube videos. After a great season at Wigan, under Bruce, Lee Cattermole was being talked about as a future international midfielder. And then, of course, there was Darren Bent.

After a prolonged summer chase, Bruce had convinced Bent his future lay at Sunderland, and it was the first time for decades, it seemed, that we’d managed to sign a player who could reasonably be described as a top-class Premier League performer.

The season kicked off at the Reebok Stadium to face Gary Megson’s Bolton, who included Gavin McCann in their starting line up, as well as the likes of Gary Cahill, Elmander, Kevin Davies and the perennial scourge of Sunderland, Matt Taylor.

Five minutes in, Bent 1-0, and the new era under Bruce was off to the brightest of starts.

Opening day 2018/19: Late Gooch goal ignites new hope

Sunderland v Charlton Athletic - Sky Bet League One
Last minute winner for Gooch. It’s all going to be alright... isn’t it?!?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Date: 4 August 2018
Venue: Stadium of Light
Attendance: 31,075
Opposition: Charlton Athletic
Score: Sunderland 2-1 Charlton Athletic
Line up: McLaughlin, Love (Oviedo 27), Loovens, Ozturk, Matthews, Gooch, O’Nien (Sinclair 46, Molyneux 90), Mumba, Honeyman, Maguire, Maja.

So much hope. After two consecutive relegations, during which we could barely win at home for toffee, this felt like redemption. After going behind to an early Lyle Taylor penalty – new signing Chris Maguire conceding and Taylor, who’d been on the verge of signing for Sunderland before money squabbles ending the deal, put the ball past debutant McLaughlin.

A further five players debuted during the game, Loovens, Ozturk, O’Nien, Maguire and Sinclair, while the selection of Love, Mumba and Maja underlined the lack of any depth. It reaped rewards for Maja, of course, and it was he who equalised midway through the second half.

Deep into injury time, as the game was petering out into a draw, Oviedo – who’d been an early replacement for Donald Love – swung the ball in from the left, and Gooch rose to head the winner past Phillips.

A stunning finish to the game, which seemed to signify everything was going to be alright…

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