2009 was a year of change for Sunderland that officially spelled the end of our adventure with Drumaville.
In the lead-up to 2009 getting underway, Ellis Short had already acquired a 30% stake in the club and financed Roy Keane’s final spending spree - which resulted in Keane resigning in December 2008 expressing his displeasure at the American’s apparent interference.
Ricky Sbragia limped us home to Premier League safety, where a generally poor season was masked by the fact we had finished two points ahead of our friends up the road - who were relegated to the Championship.
This all resulted in the summer of 2009 becoming a time of change, starting on the footballing side when Ricky Sbragia stepped down leaving a vacancy needing to be dealt with by the owners, but the question remained of who exactly that would be.
Only weeks later, at the end of May, Drumaville’s time in charge of the club was over when Ellis Short turned his 30% stake into 100%. Despite this, Niall Quinn remained in his position as chairman, and as far as the Texan was concerned was still in charge of how things were run:
Niall runs the club. Niall is a very smart footballer, very smart about the Premier League and is a wonderful chairman of the club who knows more about football than I ever will, so I will be in the background and Niall will be running the show.
I will be involved in things like finance. With me coming in, you get all of these other good ingredients that are already in place at the club and can add to that a streamlined decision making process, a streamlined board and with some financial ability to make some moves — and we think that is the missing piece that this club has needed.
But if that money is invested wisely, and the personnel decisions that you make are good ones, then I’m not worried at all. I fully expect that Niall will be able to make good personnel decisions going forward.
Less than a week later, Steve Bruce was appointed as the new manager of Sunderland on a three-year deal, which was believed to be in the region of £60,000-a-week on top of around £3 million in compensation paid to Wigan Athletic, as Niall Quinn described the reasons for his appointment:
Steve will bring a professionalism and strength of character to this club that will really help to bring us forward to where we all want to be.
He knows more than anyone what football means to people of this region and I’m confident that he will be able to instill into our players exactly what it means to play for this football club.
The ex-Manchester United defender immediately went to work in rebuilding the squad. Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana were signed to provide bite in the middle of the park, Paulo Da Silva provided more strength in depth at the back and to provide goals, Fraizer Campbell and new record signing Darren Bent joined the club.
Once the season got underway, it could be described as up and down. By the time the visit of Mick McCarthy’s Wolverhampton Wanderers side came around on this day 12 years ago, the results so far were a perfect sequence of win-loss-win-loss.
The good omen ahead of the Wolves fixture was in the fact Mick McCarthy was still looking for his first Premier League victory at the Stadium of Light, despite this being the 25th attempt.
Ahead of the game, Anton Ferdinand was dropped to the bench after a run of poor performances with John Mensah starting in his place, and Paulo da Silva made his first start in the Premier League after impressing in the Carling Cup win over Birmingham.
McCarthy, however, made seven changes to the Wolves team that lost their League Cup tie against Manchester United, which would see Wolves fined in the long term.
After only 10 minutes Sunderland were awarded a controversial penalty which had Mick McCarthy rushing over to the television monitors by the Wolves dug-out. Darren Bent was able to put all of the protests to one side as he sent the kick neatly under Wayne Hennessey’s dive.
But, just after the break when Sunderland were awarded a second penalty, he handed the ball to strike partner Kenwyne Jones when the home side won a second. And although Jones scored, Bruce wasn’t happy:
That won’t be happening again. It says something about the mentality that we have to change. He wanted his mate to score, but Darren is one of the best penalty takers in the country and he will take them in future.
I had no idea and it was a good job he scored or there would have been hell to pay. I have a silly superstition and I don’t watch penalties.
Over the next 7 minutes the game turned on its head. An own-goal from John Mensah and a Kevin Doyle following comical defending meant Wolves were level, and looking more likely to get the winner.
Watched by new owner Ellis Short, on a rare visit to Wearside, Sunderland took control of the game once more 15 minutes later through Kenwyne Jones once again with a great finish low into the corner from the edge of the box. Michael Turner then made it four with a neat header from an Andy Reid corner three minutes later, and a Darren Bent shot was deflected off the foot of Michael Mancienne to make it five.
The result sent us joint 5th in the Premier League (8th on goal difference), after 7 games of the 2009-10 season under our belts.
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:
It is just an incredible result but at times our defending was comical. The coaching staff have to sort out the situation defensively. Thankfully at the top end of the pitch we have a genuine threat and have used them to get out of jail.
But we have got to be delighted with the start we have made to the season. It was one of those crazy ones. I am delighted to have three points but not really happy. We went into meltdown with every Wolves attack. I don’t feel like we have won 5-2.
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy:
It will be a talking point that a promoted team got slapped for five but we had lots of chances. We had them by the scruff of the throat at 2-2 and there were lots of positives from the performance.
All of us thought that we could go on and win the game but unfortunately we lost it in the process. It wasn’t a 5-2 result. I have had more frustrating afternoons. If you want to talk about frustrating days we will be here for a long time. The swingometer is somewhere between pleasing and frustrating
Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 5-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
(Bent (pen) 9’, Jones (pen) 48’, 70, Turner 73’, Mancienne (OG) 90’ - Mensah (OG) 50’, Doyle 55’)
Sunderland: Gordon, Da Silva (Ferdinand), Turner, Mensah, Richardson, Malbranque, Cana, Cattermole (Henderson), Reid, Jones, Bent (McCartney) Substitutes not used: Fulop, Nosworthy, Healy, Campbell
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Hennessey, Halford, Berra, Mancienne, Elokobi, Edwards, Castillo (Kightly), Henry, Jarvis, Doyle (Ebanks-Blake), Keogh (Maierhofer) Substitutes not used: Hahnemann, Craddock, Foley, Milijas