To mark 40 years on the throne and The Queen’s Ruby Jubilee, Sunderland was awarded City status in 1992.
It was at the fifth time of asking, having been beaten to the award by Derby in 1974 due to an anomaly that was caused as a result of new local government boundary reforms, making the East Midlands town the largest non-city giving them the edge.
By 1992, it had become like a full blown competition to be on the radar for the award, with 20 applicants all vying for the accolade by presenting their case. Sunderland’s bid was primarily based around our history and the people, and after reaching a final shortlist of three, the announcement came on the 14th February 1992 that it was Sunderland who would become Britain’s 54th city.
On the 20th May a delegation travelled to London to collect the documents that officially confirmed the new status, and the 28th June was declared as ‘City Day’, where all of the city’s leisure facilities were opened free of charge to the public.
It was a huge time of change for Sunderland as the shipyards had already gone and then a year later the last of the collieries closed. The only visible sign of progress that year was the polytechnic becoming a university, which if you had blinked you might have missed it in 1992.
On the pitch we had just come off the back of a turbulent season after dropping out of the First Division. Struggles in Division Two meant that Denis Smith was replaced by Malcolm Crosby who turned himself from caretaker to permanent manager by steering us to the 1992 FA Cup final - which ended in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Following our day out at Wembley the news broke that club captain Paul Bracewell had rejected Sunderland’s offer of a one-year contract, as we apparently had concerns about his longevity, and so he promptly took up Kevin Keegan’s offer of a three-year deal up the road.
Paul Hardyman also followed Bracewell out of the exit from Roker Park by joining Bristol Rovers, after falling out with the manager after being dropped for the FA Cup final.
Three new additions were brought in to boost the ranks by Malcolm Crosby during the summer. Grimsby Town midfielder and captain Shaun Cunnington was the most expensive at £650,000, followed by Scottish winger John Colquhoun from Millwall for £200,000 and finally ex-England, Ipswich and Glasgow Rangers central defender Terry Butcher had signed as a free agent at the ripe old age of 33.
Butcher arrived to team up once again with Bobby Ferguson who had been Bobby Robson’s assistant during the glory years at Ipswich Town, and was now the newly appointed assistant manager to Malcolm Crosby at Sunderland.
All three new signings were in the starting line-up for the friendly with Spurs that was arranged to celebrate city status, and in keeping with the mood fans were given free admission to commemorate the occasion.
Tottenham were managed by joint caretaker managers Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence after the club sacked Peter Shreeves following a disappointing 15th place finish in the final year of the Football League as we knew it.
The season about to start was the inaugural year of the Premier League and Spurs were most definitely a team in transition in the summer of 1992. Funds were boosted by the sales of Paul Gascoigne to Lazio for £5.5 million, Gary Lineker to Nagoya Grampus 8 in Japan for £1 million and £2.3 million was recouped on Paul Stewart’s move to Liverpool.
New signings Neil Ruddock (£750,000 from Southampton) and Jason Cundy (£850,000 from Chelsea) were on display at the back for Tottenham at Roker, but the big new signing on display was 20-year-old Darren Anderton, who had been captured from Portsmouth for £1.75 million.
That fee was probably a similar amount to the total outlay that Sunderland had spent acquiring our first XI and substitutes that night, and it ultimately showed, although Crosby’s side more than held their own in the opening half an hour, and probably had the better chances.
That was until two goals in four minutes from Darren Anderton changed the game. In both cases, it was Gordon Durie who cut the back four wide open by providing the opportunities for Tottenham’s new kid on the block. Anderton actually had two further opportunities to claim his hat-trick but had to wait until the 78th minute when Gary Owers brought down Nick Barmby to concede a penalty.
Anderton stepped up to complete his hat-trick from the spot which left Sunderland’s assistant manager Bobby Ferguson concerned for the season ahead as Crosby’s side had failed to register a win throughout pre-season.
For the first 20 minutes we could have been a couple of goals up, but as soon as we got a goal against us we started playing a totally differently pumping long balls straight down the middle. If we are going to bottle it in front of a big crowd we have no chance.
Pre-season’s never fail to entertain when it comes to Sunderland.
Sunderland 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
(Anderton 31’, 34’, 78’ (pen))
Sunderland: Carter (Norman), Martin Gray (Armstrong), Butcher, Ball (Bennett), Rogan, Owers, Atkinson (Michael Gray), Cunnington, Colquhoun (Mooney), Goodman, Byrne
Tottenham Hotspur: Walker, Fenwick (Austin), Cundy, Ruddock, Edinburgh, Anderton, Samways, Howells, Allen, Hendry (Barmby), Durie (Turner)