On this day in 1988, Denis Smith was jubilant after securing the signing of one of the most sought after talents on the youth circuit.
After seeing off competition from Chelsea, among others, Smith had convinced 16-year-old Glasgow-born winger Kieron Brady that his future lay at Roker Park.
Sources close to the management at that time have told us Smith was absolutely delighted that Brady had chosen Sunderland as the club to start his professional career, and that delight was certainly well placed.
Towards the end of the 88-89 season Brady’s name was being mentioned more regularly thanks to some wonderful performances at youth and reserve level, and he was brought into first team reckoning in the 89-90 pre-season.
He started a couple of warm-up games, including the only home friendly – a 2-0 defeat to Russian side Dnepr – and came off the bench in a handful of other games, so it was something of a surprise that he was made to wait until November for his first-team debut.
He was a half-time replacement for Paul Hardyman against Plymouth Argyle, and impressed with his touch, skill and attacking mindset.
He was made to wait a while for appearance number two, however, with Smith evidently wanting to keep the talented youngster’s feet on the ground. He made his full debut in the last game of the decade, a 2-2 draw at home to Port Vale, but it was a run of games in March that really got people on the edge of their seat.
Coming off the back of two wins in 15 games, which had seen the side fall from third to eighth, Smith turned to Brady after a 3-0 defeat at Plymouth.
He impressed at home to Leicester and at Bournemouth. Those two games resulted in four points – the maximum return only prevented by a last minute Leicester equaliser.
A midweek game against Howard Wilkinson’s champions elect Leeds saw Brady watch the game from the sidelines, but he was recalled for the visit of West Ham United.
And we all know what happened in that game.
Suffice to say, it’s the best individual performance I’ve ever witnessed at Sunderland – and it gave the team momentum to surge up the table, eventually securing promotion to the top flight.