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On This Day - 24 Feb 1979: Newcastle humbled as Rowell hat-trick seals famous Sunderland win

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On this day in 1979, a young man from County Durham became a legend for all time as Sunderland went to St James’ Park and won 4-1.

Soccer - Sunderland Association Football Club - Photocall - Roker Park Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

It’s a story that gets retold generation after generation amongst Sunderland fans; we sing the song, and every year we like to remember that faithful day, now 42 years ago, when Billy Elliott’s promotion-seeking Sunderland side went up the road to the old enemy’s house and well and truly put them to the sword.

Let’s relive the glory one more time by going through each of the four goals we scored that day.

Number 1 - Gary Rowell

The game was little over five minutes old when the ball was pumped forward from the right, flicked once and then again, brilliantly and decisively, by Wilf Rostron, and Gary Rowell ghosted between the Magpies’ central defenders to poke the ball home from seven yards out. The befuddled Newcastle manager, Bill McGarry later commented of Rowell that:

You don’t see him, then suddenly he comes in from nowhere and knocks it in.

Cue pandemonium from the thousands of travelling Sunderland fans packed in behind the goal. We were on our way.

Number 2 - Gary Rowell

Nineteen more minutes of Black Cats domination passed before the second goal came for Rowell. Sunderland won the ball from a midfield battle, and a perfect ball over the top from Kevin Arnott found the young striker’s well-timed run, and he sprinted away from the chasing defenders before neatly slotting the ball beyond the helpless Steve Hardwick in the Newcastle goal.

Two-nil up at half time and Sunderland were cruising towards a vital away win.

Number 3 - Gary Rowell

Into the second half and the Mags thought they’d managed to drag themselves back into the game as Nigel Walker’s free kick from the left hand side was met by the head of John Connolly, who diverted the ball past Barry Siddell. However, the game was over as a contest 12 minutes later when Newcastle gave away a penalty. Rowell, wearing Sunderland’s beautiful blue Umbro jubilee kit, expertly converted the resulting spot kick in front of the baying home supporters.

Speaking afterwards, Rowell was overjoyed to score his third of the afternoon.

I regard Newcastle as the enemy and it was simply wonderful to score at all, never mind a hat-trick.

But he wasn’t finished there...

Number 4 - (assisted by) Gary Rowell

Sunderland completely outclassed their local rivals for large portions of the game, and that dominance was perfectly displayed on 71 minutes when Rowell, on the right hand side of the box, controlled a ball into his chest, spun, beat his man and hung a beautiful ball to the back post which was met by the head of onrushing Wayne Entwistle, who nodded the ball into the back of the Tynesiders’ net. The celebrations went on long into the night on Wearside.

It was one of our greatest ever Wear-Tyne derby victories, Newcastle’s biggest defeat for over four years, and inspired a fantastic run of League form. This resulted in Sunderland finishing fourth, only two points off Crystal Palace in top spot in Division 2 but, frustratingly, just outside of the promotion places. We’d have to wait another year before returning to the top flight.


Starting XIs: Newcastle: Hardwick, Brownlie, Nattrass, Martin, Bird, Blackley (Mitchell), Shoulder, Walker, Withe, Hibbitt, Connolly Sunderland: Siddall, Henderson, Bolton, Arnott (Docherty), Clarke, Elliott, Chisholm, Rostron, Entwistle, Lee, Rowell