On this day in 1989, Sunderland were lining up for the 109th Tyne Wear Derby - the first in four and a half years.
Since Sunderland’s relegation in 1985 the club had fallen into Division Three, bouncing back at the first attempt. Newcastle had remained in the top tier, until relegation during the 1988-89 season.
And all eyes were on Wearside as Newcastle headed to Roker Park, with Jim Smith’s side featuring the newly signed strike force of Mickey Quinn (fat, round and bounced on the ground) and Mark McGhee.
Gary Bennett, who was sent off at St James’ Park in the last fixture, was only rated a 60/40 chance of making the fixture in the days before after struggling with a hamstring injury. But Bennett was confident of stifling the threat posed by the scouse striker, who’d already bagged nine goals that season, making him the football league’s leading scorer.
He doesn’t frighten me.
People are building it up as a battle between us but it’s no big deal.
I have played against MIckey a number of times. He’s a good goalscorer, but I reckon I can handle him. He didn’t score against us when he was last at Roker Park – last season against Portsmouth. We won 4-0, and I would give anything for the same result.
I definitely intend to play. This is one game I don’t intend to miss.
Jim Smith was naturally concerned about the threat posed by Sunderland’s talismanic striker, Marco Gabbiadini.
The team that defends best will win. Newcastle and Sunderland are two of the few teams with 100% scoring records, and I think there will be goals.
Our attack has been causing opponents problems all season without getting the number of goals that we deserve. I hope our luck changes at Roker Park.
We know that we have to keep a close watch on Gabbiadini. He does something exciting in every game and is a threat to everyone.
Gabbiadini has everything it takes to become an outstanding player, but I will back Mickey Quinn to score more goals in a season. He is a better finisher.
If Quinn had Gabbiadini’s pace he would be world class. It is going to be an interesting contrast between the two.
Sunderland lined up: Tim Carter, Reuben Agboola, Gary Bennett, John MacPhail, Paul Hardyman; Gary Owers, Paul Bracewell, Gordon Armstrong, Colin Pascoe; Eric Gates, Marco Gabbiadini. Subs: Tony Cullen, Thomas Hauser.
Newcastle lined up: Gary Kelly, John Anderson, Andy Thorn, Kevin Scott, Mark Stimson; John Gallacher, Kevin Dillon, Bjorn Kristensen, Kevin Brock; Mark McGhee, Mickey Quinn. Subs: Gary Brazil, Ray Ranson.
Bennett did indeed make the high-noon kick-off, and kept good on his promise to keep Quinn quiet. In fact, for a game that was billed as a battle of the hotshots, Gabbiadini versus Quinn, it offered very little in terms of goalmouth action.
Jim Smith, assisted at this moment in time by Bobby Saxton, changed tactics after his side had lost three successive away games, including going down 3-1 at Third Division Reading in the League Cup. Danish international Bjorn Kristensen was deployed as a sweeper in front of the back four, and – together with Newcastle’s steadfast determination not to get beat – meant chances were at a premium. The game ended 0-0.
After not facing each other for the best part of five years, the sides were evidently keen to make up for lost time. A 1-1 draw in the reverse league fixture kept honours even – as did the first leg of the play-offs, courtesy of Hardyman’s penalty miss.
The balance was tipped in Sunderland’s favour in the fourth and final time the sides faced each other, with that famous night on 16 May 1990.
In the battle of the hotshots, Marco ended up with two goals in four games, McGhee with one and Quinn drew a blank – indeed, Quinn never found the back of the net for Newcastle when playing against the lads in red and white.