After the magic carpet ride of watching Roy Keane drag Sunderland up by the scruff of the neck from the bottom of the Championship to winning the title in his first season, we then had the small matter of the Premier League to prepare for. And Roy Keane was in a hurry.
Kieran Richardson, Dickson Etuhu, Paul McShane, Michael Chopra, Andy Reid, Greg Halford, Kenwyne Jones and the UK’s most expensive goalkeeper Craig Gordon were all new additions throughout the season to the tune of something in the region of £35 million.
This spending spree was enough to eventually see us finish a respectable 15th in the Premier League at the end of the 2007-08 season, but it was a season that saw us flirt dangerously with relegation, having been in the bottom three during January.
It was a winter transfer window that arguably saved the day, with Jonny Evans once again making a huge difference after signing on-loan from Manchester United in January. Although we did end the season three places above Reading who took the final relegation position, we had only amassed 39 points - three clear of the dropzone.
Keane clearly wanted to avoid a repeat of our first year in the Premier League and the summer of 2008 was intriguing as it was alarming and exciting. A different type of player was being targeted by Roy Keane to provide us with an extra bite he felt we were missing.
Ahead of the opening day, Sunderland had managed to confirm three signings from Tottenham Hotspur in the form of Steed Malbranque, Pascal Chimbonda and Teemu Tainio for an undisclosed amount. The fourth signing was a bit of a surprise when El-Hadji Diouf arrived from Bolton Wanderers for a fee of around £2.5 million.
More singings were rumoured, and eventually, Djibril Cisse, Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney were added to the squad, but ahead of meeting Liverpool it was only the four debutants in a position to turn out at the Stadium of Light against Rafa Benitez’s side.
Liverpool’s preparations for the start of the season had hardly gone smoothly, with speculation surfacing in the tabloids during the week leading up to the fixture that the manager might quit Anfield.
The former Valencia manager had been frustrated that a move for Aston Villa’s Gareth Barry could not get over the line and a few days before the trip to Wearside his side could only play out a goalless draw in the Champions League third qualifying round first leg against Standard Liege.
The game did finally get underway to kick off the 2008-09 season, with 43,259 in attendance at the Stadium of Light, and it was Roy Keane’s side who looked most likely to open the scoring in a generally poor first half.
El-Hadji Diouf looked particularly lively against his former employers in the early stages. He was first thwarted by a last-ditch Jamie Carragher tackle and was then the architect to create a chance where Daryl Murphy simply needed nod home, but put his header straight into the grateful hands of Reina in the Liverpool goal.
Liverpool grew into the game after the break, but even then, their £46 million strikeforce of Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane were pretty ineffective.
That was, however, until they produced a moment of magic as the game appeared to be ebbing away to finish goalless.
With seven minutes remaining, Torres received a pass from Xabi Alonso midway inside the Sunderland half, turned into space and struck a sensational strike from 25-yards into the bottom left-hand corner giving Craig Gordon no chance.
Roy Keane lamented after the game that the Premier League was all about moments that could turn a game on its head, just as Fernando Torres had been able to do.
We tired in the last 15 to 20 minutes - which is something I should take responsibility for. We should have had some tougher games in pre-season.
For all the hard work, the number of goals scored in the last 15 minutes is huge - and the other 75 minutes goes out of the window.
It was just one moment - that’s all we’re talking about - but that’s the beauty of the Premier League. I can’t complain, because I’ve been on the other side of it.
Keane would resign in November and our strategy in terms of our recruitment that summer was much to blame for the events that occurred during the season.
A missed opportunity - it’s not like Sunderland at all, is it?
Sunderland 0-1 Liverpool
Sunderland: Gordon, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Collins, Bardsley, Malbranque (Edwards), Tainio (Whitehead), Richardson, Reid, Murphy, Diouf (Chopra) Substitutes not used: Ward, Higginbotham, Stokes
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Dossena, Kuyt, Gerrard, Plessis (Alonso), Benayoun (Aurelio), Keane (El Zhar), Torres Substitutes not used: Cavalieri, Agger, Skrtel, Ngog
Goal: Torres, 83