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On This Day: 14 September 1995 – Sunderland supporters demand change at the top

ON THIS DAY (1995): In a situation with remarkable parallels to today, the Supporters Action For Change Group demanded the club chairman outlined his long-term vision for Sunderland Association Football Club.

ENGLISH Soccer - ENDSLEIGH LEAGUE - SUNDERLAND v DERBY COUNTY Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images

On this day in 1995, the Sunderland Action For Change group demanded a blueprint to outline the club’s plan and ambitions, and that boss Peter Reid was backed with transfer funds, after supporters grew increasingly frustrated and despondent about the way Bob Murray was running the club.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
History views Sir Bob kindly – however there were significant low points during his tenure as owner of SAFC.
Photo by Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

In a statement, the group’s spokesperson, Tom Lynn, said, “All we are doing is keeping our finger on the pulse of the general plight of the club.

“The idea is to create as positive an environment for Peter Reid. Speaking personally, it’s obvious that Peter Reid needs between £2-3m if we are to make an impact on the promotion race. So far, he has spent less than £100,000 on two players – Paul Bracewell and John Mullin – and they both look like good buys.

“So he has proved he is a manager who can be trusted to spend the club’s money wisely. But he has got to have a lot more money sooner rathet than later while there is still something to play for this season.

“What has happened in recent seasons is that the club have not really started spending money on new players until they have been in a relegation situation.

Soccer - Endsleigh League Division One - Sunderland v Leicester City - Roker Park
Bracewell was an inspired signing by Reid
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

As well as backing the manager on the field, the group also wanted to know the intentions of the board in the longer term.

“All we keep hearing about is the new ground, and we all know that matters. But there has got to be… clear definition of where the club is going.

“Sir John Hall has spelt out the intentions at Newcastle, and Middlesbrough have made their ambitions clear.

“To ask Peter Reid to get us in the Premiership without giving him enough funds to do the job is bordering on the impossible.”

Reid, of course, did accomplish the (almost) impossible that season, and he did it with the squad that was already in place at this point. At this point in the season we had taken two wins from the first seven games and, after narrowly avoiding the drop the season before, promotion – or indeed winning the championship – just didn’t seem likely.

With Newcastle’s Keegan bandwagon travelling at full pelt, not to mention Robson’s Middlesbrough attracting some world class names, it’s not hard to imagine the frustration felt at Sunderland at the time, if you can’t recall it first hand.

Murray did relax the purse strings a little, Republic of Ireland striker David Kelly was signed for around £1m a few weeks later (four years after turning us down in favour of them up the road), however he was injured on international duty shortly after arriving and barely played.

Soccer - F.A. Carling Premiership - Newcastle United v Sunderland
Kelly, pictured playing the following season, didn’t perform for Sunderland; partly due to injury, partly as he was often played on the right wing.
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

In some respects, Reid’s miracle and the progress on the Stadium of Light deflected attention away from the lack of an off-field plan, and while we were promoted we once again suffered from a lack of investment, with only Niall Quinn and Alex Rae arriving for any significant fee.

But it’s worth remembering that, from a low point in our history, a high soon followed. And while the gaps between divisions is greater now than ever before, football has a habit of surprising us.

So, where’s the blueprint for the next five years. And who’s the 2020 version of Peter Reid?

ENGLISH Soccer - ENDSLEIGH LEAGUE - SUNDERLAND v DERBY COUNTY
The job Reid did in that first full season was truly remarkable, and often goes under appreciated due to what happened subsequently.
Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images