On the 14th of July 2000, Sunderland boss Peter Reid announced three new signings who would go on the have differing fortunes at the club: Don Hutchison, Tom Peeters and Jurgen Macho. Like all managers, some of Reid’s buys turned out to be a success whilst some others didn’t, and with a few falling somewhere in the middle as well the trio proved to be a great example of this.
Although only at the club for a season, Hutchison was most certainly a hit. Already a proven Premiership performer, he added guile to Sunderland’s midfield and his goal threat helped see him named Player of the Year. Peeters meanwhile was a gamble that didn’t pay off, and whilst he went on to have a career in the game elsewhere the Belgian only made one first team appearance for the Lads. As for Macho however, who arrived a month shy of his 24th birthday, he too was a relative unknown and whilst he never really became a first choice pick, he was always viewed as a capable option.
Arriving on Wearside via a free transfer having impressed whilst at hometown club First Vienna, Macho was brought in to provide back up and help push regular number one Thomas Sorensen. He was soon thrust into action though, coming on to replace the injured Sorensen in the 2000-01 season opener against Arsenal.
The full story of that game was featured on Roker Report last week, but on a day where due to the opening of the North Stand extension over 46,000 fans witnessed a high drama 1-0 win, Macho needed to be composed. He stayed in the team for the following four games but with Sorensen returning to fitness and in good form himself, they remained Macho’s only league appearances of the season.
Macho did come off from the bench in another impressive home win that season, this time against Manchester United in the Worthington Cup, but during the 2001-02 campaign he again only managed four league appearances. During 2002 he made his debut for the Austrian national team, but the arrival of another international goalkeeper looked set to reduce his first team opportunities.
When Macho first came to Sunderland the Wales cap Andy Marriott was also there and now he had to contend with Norway regular Thomas Myhre. 2002-03 would see Sunderland relegated in miserable fashion but on a personal level, Macho enjoyed his longest run in the side following injuries to both Myhre and his Scandinavian counterpart Sorensen.
Returning to the side for Howard Wilkinson’s first game in charge and then making another substitute appearance in the following game, Macho was inspired during a mini run that suggested Reid’s replacement in the hot seat was going to turn Sunderland’s ailing form around. His most notable performance was in a backs to the wall goalless draw against Liverpool in which he produced a string of superb reflex saves to maintain a clean sheet and whilst he also played in the return game at the Stadium of Light that proved to be Sunderland’s final league win of the season, his final appearance for the club followed shortly afterwards.
The fact that the Liverpool victory came in December tells you everything you need to know about how Wilkinson’s tenure eventually panned out, and little blame could be apportioned to Macho, whose final game was an FA Cup tie at Bolton Wanderers in early January. Days after the match Mart Poom’s loan move from Derby County was turned into a permanent deal to make it four full international keepers on the books at Sunderland, and in aftermath of relegation Macho moved onto Chelsea and has since become a coach.
Exactly ten years before Jurgen Macho, another of Reid’s imports was born. Also celebrating his birthday today is Jan Eriksson, who despite an impressive CV elsewhere is in the same ‘single SAFC appearance’ club as Peeters. Admittedly, Macho didn’t play too many times for Sunderland either, making less than 30 appearances all told, but unlike some of the purchases that ended up in Reid’s ‘miss’ category, he is well remembered by many of those that saw him play.
Now, all together please ‘Macho, macho man, I gotta be a macho man…’