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On This Day: 8 September 1987 – Trio of strikers linked as Smith steps up Sunderland’s search

ON THIS DAY (1987): Three young goal scorers are targeted as Sunderland boss Denis Smith looks to increase firepower.

Soccer - Barclay’s League Division Two - Notts County v Wolverhampton Wanderers Photo by Dave Munden/EMPICS via Getty Images

On this day in 1987, Denis Smith was stepping up his search for a new striker, with Northampton’s Trevor Morley, Bristol Rovers’ Gary Penrice and Wolves’ Steve Bull the names under consideration.

“I’ve looked at the matches that are on this weekend, and I am planning to watch a couple of players,” Smith said.

“I’ve had to go back to my list and I will be having a look at the people on it when the opportunity arises, but there is no rush and I don’t expect to have a new player here this week.”

Steve Bould of Arsenal and Trevor Morley of West Ham United
Morley (right) pictured here playing for West Ham, was building a strong reputation at Northampton Town in 1987.

This was a time, of course, when the only transfer deadline occurred at the end of March, meaning clubs could sign players whenever they wanted; a far better system than the panic-inducing transfer windows we now have to deal with.

A bid for a striker – perhaps one of those named – had fallen on deaf ears, while Smith was reluctant to pursue Penrice’s signature for fear of being dragged into an auction.

Of course, none of that trio did sign – maybe due to the reported £80,000 budget given to Smith by Bob Murray – but they all would have been good additions to the team.

Morley saw the season out at Northampton before joining Manchester City, going on to have a six year spell at West Ham; Penrice went on to sign for Watford for £500,000 in 1989, subsequently making a £1m move to Aston Villa and then QPR.

Gary Penrice of Queens Park Rangers
Penrice always stood out, primarily due to his rather fetching ‘tash

Steve Bull is probably the most tantilising-in-retrospect name on the list. At the time Bull was playing in the Fourth Division with Wolves, but making major headlines.

“The lad scored 15 goals in 30 games last season, and has already scored 7 times this season, so he’s worth looking at. I have spoken to one of my scouts about him, but that’s as far as it has gone,” Smith said.

Soccer - Football League Centenary Tournament - Opening Round - Everton v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Wembley Stadium, London
Bull was a superb goalscorer, and in 1989 was capped by England while still a Third Division player.
Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

Bull was only in his second season at Wolves – he stayed there for a further nine years, scoring over 300 goals for the club in all competitions.

As for Smith, he drove down to town in his Lamborghini, went out, bought some class (ironically with that £80,000) and called it Gabbiadini.

John Anderson and Marco Gabbiadini
But if any of those moves had come off, we wouldn’t have had Marco.
Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images