On this day back in 1998, Sunderland took on Third Division side Chester City in the 1st leg of the League Cup second round at the Stadium of Light, with Peter Reid’s side hoping to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
In front of a crowd of 20,618, Reid named a strong side that had Kevin Phillips and Daniel Dichio up top, yet had rotated his options following a 1-1 draw away at Wolverhampton Wanderers at the weekend.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen, Makin, Craddock, Williams (Butler), Scott, Wainwright, Mullin, Rae, Smith, Dichio, Phillips (Bridges) Substitutes not used: Ball, Summerbee, Johnston
Whilst Chester were able to withstand some early pressure, Sunderland eventually made it count in the 32nd minute through Martin Scott’s goal, and soon followed it up with a goal from ‘Super’ Kevin Phillips just six minutes before the half-time break.
Half time, 2-0 up - job done, right?
Well, yes, but things took a turn for the worse when just seven minutes into the second half our talismanic striker, the aforementioned Kevin Phillips, came off the worst following a pretty naughty tackle, sustaining a broken toe which would eventually keep him out for close to four months.
Terrible news, especially when you consider that we were already missing the goals and talent of evergreen forward Niall Quinn.
Sunderland went on to score once more in the game when Kev’s replacement, Michael Bridges, notched Sunderland’s third and final goal.
Yet, despite winning the first leg of this particular cup game in clinical fashion, all of the talk coming out of the game was about Phillips and just how serious the injury was.
The news that SuperKev would be missing for four months was a devastating blow, but the reaction to it from the other Sunderland players perhaps best sums up why we absolutely steamrolled towards the league title that season.
In the following game, a home fixture against Oxford United, we battered them 7-0 without our two first choice strikers, showing that despite losing the talent that we did, we had more than enough in our ranks to cope without them.
Such exciting times to be a Sunderland supporter - god, what I’d give to go back and re-live it all over again.