Andy Reid was a player who always seemed destined to be a Sunderland player, as we seemed to be constantly linked to him, only for him to go elsewhere.
When he was a youngster at Forest, Sunderland were credited in dispatches as having an interest, but a move to London to join Spurs followed. We were once again linked when his time at White Hart Lane was cut short, with Reid opting to join Charlton, and he stayed with the Addicks despite relegation.
Reid was still excelling in the Championship when compatriot Roy Keane came knocking in January 2008. Reid – a guitar-playing, relaxed character who plainly had issues controlling his weight, seemed an unlikely signing for Keane. But then again, Roy Keane’s anything but predictable and brought Reid to the club as he knew he’d be able to provide the creative spark the team was lacking at the time.
Up to and including Boxing Day, the first season back up under Keane had been a slog. He’d spent a lot of money on players including Craig Gordon, Michael Chopra, Paul McShane, Greg Halford, Dickson Etuhu and Kieran Richardson, and after a thrilling opening day win over Spurs – after which we were momentarily top of the league – we won only a further three games in 21 league fixtures.
As new year’s eve approached, sitting in 18th place, we were in need of reinforcements, and Keane played his Jonny Evans card soon after Auld Lang Syne rang out. The defender was pivotal in promotion, and with the best will in the world, replacing him with Paul McShane had as much impact as if we’d replaced him with Ian McShane. Or Paul Shane. Take your pick.
By the time Wigan came to town 12 years ago today, we were up in 16th place – consecutive home league wins over Bolton, Portsmouth and Birmingham had buoyed the confidence, but we’d just been beaten 2-0 at Anfield (the Rade Prica sub who was subbed game). Wigan had turned us over 3-0 at home in the FA Cup, so there was a nervous tension in the air, but we were intrigued by the deadline day arrival of Reid, who’d joined for £5m, with the bomb scare summer signing Greg Halford heading to Charlton on loan for the rest of the season. We knew we’d get revenge for Clive Mendonca one day.
Roy O’Donovan made his first start for the club, with Reid – who’d been injured at Charlton – fit enough to take his place on the bench.
After an awful opening half, Sunderland took the lead with only a few first-half minutes on the clock, Dickson Etuhu – who’d missed recent games playing for Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations – headed home Dean Whitehead’s cross for his first goal for the club.
Heskey went close for Wigan immediately after, and in the second half, it was all Wigan, as Steve Bruce’s side tried their very best to grab an equaliser – Gordon in fine form supported by some strong defensive work kept the clean sheet intact. When the lads couldn’t do it, the woodwork came to our rescue; Kevin Kilbane’s effort hitting the post, and Heskey’s header hitting the bar.
We needed to relieve the pressure, and Keane brought Reid on to do just that – his introduction designed to retain possession and enable us to get out of our own half.
When Reid got stripped for action, there was a ripple of laughter from the crowd – this fella did not look in peak physical condition.
But it turned out he didn’t need to be because within a minute of coming on he played what is probably one of the best passes the Stadium of Light has ever witnessed.
A cross-field ball found Daryl Murphy, who rocketed the ball past Chris Kirkland into the top corner.
The two-goal lead was barely deserved, but we didn’t care at all.
Wigan were denied a goal in the closing stages, Gordon producing another magnificent save, this time from Boyce’s header, and another three valuable points lifted us up to 14th place in the table.
After the game, Keane said:
We knew it was an important game against a team battling with us near the bottom of the table.
It was a good victory from a very tough game. Wigan will probably count themselves unlucky but the second goal we got was worthy of winning any game.
We dug deep, our goalkeeper and back four were outstanding and to keep a clean sheet was fantastic.
As for Reid, he became a pretty important part of the team over the next couple of seasons, who certainly played his part in us staying up. He was a player who, as a fan, you wanted to see play. He could be magical and oozed quality. If he was in peak condition he could have been a world-beater but, then again, if he was in peak condition he’d probably have been playing for a team challenging for the Premier League title, and we’d have missed out on magic moments such as this, and his winner against West Ham, so you can’t complain too much!
Sunderland 2-0 Wigan • 9 February 2008
Goals: Etuhu 42, Murphy 75
Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans, Collins, O’Donovan (Prica 26), Etuhu (Leadbitter 84), Whitehead, Murphy, Jones, Chopra (Reid 74). Subs not used: Fulop, McShane.
Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot (Koumas 46), Boyce, Scharner, Kilbane, Valencia, Palacios, Brown, Taylor (Olembe 56), Heskey (Bent 68), King. Subs not used: Pollitt, Granqvist.