As reported in the Newcastle Journal on November 23rd 1993 by Jeff Brown, it appeared that under-fire Sunderland boss Terry Butcher was prepared to say goodbye to two of Roker’s longest-serving players in Gordon Armstrong and Gary Owers, with both men frozen out of the matchday squad, remaining on the club’s transfer list.
Neither man was on Butcher’s bench in the game against Southend, missing out to Shaun Cunnington and Ian Rodgerson - two players that were signed by the then-Sunderland manager - as The Lads fell to a morale-crushing 2-0 home defeat at Roker Park in front of 16,968 hardy souls.
A goal in each half condemned Sunderland to their sixth successive defeat, dropping like a stone to 20th place in the Endsleigh League Division One table.
Sunderland owner Bob Murray was under pressure to make a change in the dugout from supporters, knowing that our season was slipping away, and that we were in serious danger of being plunged into a relegation battle that we couldn’t afford.
Speaking after the game, Armstrong could barely hide his disappointment at being frozen out of the side - but, perhaps knowing that Butcher would be bound to seal his own fate sooner rather than later, he was determined to fight it out to keep his place at the club:
He wanted to give a chance to the lads he had bought, which is fair enough.
He picks the team.
Gary and I have played quite a few games this season but we’re both still on the list, so we know where we stand.
Ideally, I’d like to stay and battle it out. I’ve been at the club a long time, and if anyone came in for me I’d have to sit down and think long and hard about leaving.
Obviously, with it being my testimonial year, it’s an added reason for wanting to be in the side. The club means a lot to me, and I’d like to think I could help turn things around.
Having lost to Barry Fry’s side - interestingly, with future Sunderland striker Brett Angell scoring one of the goals - Butcher held crisis talks with Bob Murray in a bid to save his job... and, as it turned out, it meant he missed out on a player.
Closeted away in the Boardroom for over two hours, Butcher and Murray thrashed things out as they attempted to work out what was going on - and, elsewhere, a trialist from Scotland decided to pursue a potential opportunity with Sheffield Wednesday instead.
Clydebank’s Martin McIntosh had spent time on trial at the Charlie Hurley Centre and played for Sunderland’s reserves against The Owls the week prior, but Murray vetoed a £30,000 move which led to the Scottish defender opting to head elsewhere.
As it turned out, Trevor Francis didn’t sign him up either, but the very public nature of McIntosh’s ‘rejection’ was a touch embarrassing for the club, and ultimately made us look like a Mickey Mouse outfit.
There’s no point in hanging about here.
I’ve enjoyed my week with Sunderland, but the manager has no money to spend on new players, so that’s the end of the matter.
Just imagine the reaction if a player came out with that now!
Perhaps Murray knew what he was about to do when refusing to sanction a move for one of Butcher’s transfer targets, but as it turned out, this was to be the England legend’s last game in charge of Sunderland...