Andrew Smithson says...
The 1995-96 run-in is still easily one of my favourite periods as a Sunderland fan.
I was of an age where I was able to start going out with my mates, and as this was the first time I had a season ticket they were really happy days.
Things on the pitch were good too - SAFC had gone through a few difficult years but Peter Reid’s arrival kick-started an amazing turnaround. I’d never been so confident going into games and with the side setting a club record unbeaten run we suddenly looked the part.
There were some memorable matches and goals during the promotion chase that I can still picture in my mind, like the wins at Grimsby Town and Birmingham City that were shown on Tyne Tees and home victories against Derby County and Huddersfield Town.
As people realised we were going places the atmosphere at Roker Park ramped up and because the team was full of honest, hard-working players - many of whom were local lads - I felt a real affinity to them.
The Premiership was still all shiny and new back then and I was desperate to see Sunderland back in the big time.
Things all seemed a little more innocent too and so I still look back fondly on those times.
Phil West says...
On the subject of ‘memorable season run-ins’, I don’t think you can look past the remarkable series of results that Sunderland put together from January to May of 2007, under the stewardship of Roy Keane, during which we lost once (away at Colchester, for the record) and quite simply steamrollered our way back to the Premier League and claimed the Championship title for good measure.
As of 2022, it remains our most recent promotion-winning campaign, and one that remains utterly unforgettable, even after fifteen long, often arduous years.
Keane had taken a while to turn the ship around and did endure some tricky periods during his opening months at the club, but as 2006 ended, things went into a higher gear, with Keane’s standards permeating through the club, and everyone buying into his vision of what Sunderland AFC could be.
The January 2007 signings of Carlos Edwards and Jonny Evans, the latter on loan from Manchester United, proved to be absolutely inspired. The additions of Danny Simpson and Stern John gave us some good depth as well, and with the likes of Dean Whitehead & Grant Leadbitter dominating in midfield, Nyron Nosworthy evolving into a real rock at the back, and David Connolly chipping in with a number of vital goals, Keane got the mixture absolutely right as the season entered its final stages. Belief was soaring, the fans were buoyant, the players were energised, and from his position in the director’s box, Niall Quinn would doubtless have felt an incredible sense of pride, as the club that had so famously got under his skin, set their sights on bringing top-flight football back to Wearside.
There were a number of memorable performances and results during this time, from the 4-0 home thrashing of Southend (‘A decent afternoon’, mused Keane, in gloriously understated fashion in his post-match interview), to the 2-1 home victory over Derby, where a goal from the late Liam Miller helped us to secure a crucial 2-1 victory against a fellow promotion hopeful and comprehensively put Billy Davies in his place. We were getting stronger and stronger, and as the weeks went by, we went from hoping to truly believing that a top-two finish was on the cards. We were also playing an exciting brand of football, as well, and, whether home or away, we fancied our chances against anybody.
Arguably the most crucial away result of this period was against Southampton at St Mary’s on Easter Monday. Despite falling behind, we didn’t panic, and two goals of supreme quality from Leadbitter and Edwards helped us to victory. It was a test of character that we passed impressively, and three weeks later, after that immortal game against Burnley, promotion was confirmed in the most thrilling way possible.
What a season, and what a way to end it.
Kelvin Beattie says...
Season 1976/77 may seem an odd choice for a favourite run-in!
We had lost Bob Stokoe to ill health hardly a third way into the season. He was eventually replaced by Ashington-born Jimmy Adamson. Our record up to Jan 22nd 77, saw us win only two games, drawing five and losing sixteen (16)! This included a 9 consecutive game losing streak, and a 10 game run without scoring a goal!
It had been a very hard watch as a regular home and away, especially after our scintillating promotion and home form of the previous season. Despite all this, the hardcore support had stuck with the team, with little sign that things were going to improve.
A hard-fought dour home draw with Stoke, followed by another backs to the wall goaless draw at Highbury, hardly seemed like the tide turning, but in retrospect it was.
As I trudged up the Fullwell End steps on a wet and windy February night, I joined our lowest crowd of the season of 21,400 at my lowest ebb.
We produced a battling performance and the only goal of the game through Mel Holden. There was just a sense amongst the crowd as we exited into the wind and rain of improvement, as well as the team being up for the fight.
The next three games were all at home and we scored a total of 16 goals, it was glorious. The run-in was in full swing, the Roker crowd were right behind their young homegrown players. Arnott, Elliott, Rowell, Bolton, Ashurst and Henderson. Kerr, Towers, Clarke, Lee, Holden and for the run-in Colin Waldron all provided experienced balance to the uninhibited young guns. Behind them all, the underrated Siddall in goal.
The run-in that started with the dour goalless draw with Stoke, saw us lose only 3 games (all away from home) out of 19, we drew 7 of these and won 8. The Roker crowd was at its bullish and passionate best in that run-in.
My lasting memory of this particular period was the effect the crowd appeared to have upon the team, it always seems to me like some kind of cathartic symbioses, crowd-feeding team feeding crowd.
We almost did it and might have done but for Jimmy Hill’s skullduggery! But I won’t let him spoil a memory. Standing outside of Goodison relegated and crestfallen, a knarled Evertonian approached me and shook my hand.
He told me he had never in his 40 odd years of going to Goodison heard or witnessed such passion and noise from an away support. He wished us well and disappeared. He will never know what he did for me that night. Relegated we were, but we would return, how could we not with these fans to back the team.
I think I have been thinking about 1976/77 because of our current situation.
After 56 years of supporting the Lads I have witnessed the crowd lift the team beyond all expectations. Can we the supporters set aside our differences, unite behind what binds us and bring whatever you care to call that magic that comes from a Roker crowd on full throttle for the team. Yes we can - let's do this!