The good times under Peter Reid were coming to an end this season. After our first back-to-back top-ten finishes since the mid-fifties spearheaded by one of the hottest strikers in Europe, and fewer than ten defeats in the first few years at the Stadium of Light, things were falling apart for Sunderland. Peter Reid’s time at the club was coming to an end. It wouldn’t be this season when his era concluded, but this is where the end began.
The team was strengthened. We brought in French striker Lillian Laslandes who flopped, as well as Bernt Haas and Joachim Bjorklund. Claudio Reyna, Jason McAteer and Patrick M’Boma joined in January also; the latter on loan. The club also had six players at the 2002 World Cup that summer in Japan and South Korea.
One could ponder why they struggled so badly. Though they still got 40 points this season, the team struggled to score goals often enough. Only on six occasions throughout the season, Sunderland scored more than one goal in a game. Kevin Phillips only managed the ten.
On this day, Sunderland went into this game in horrendous form. They had only one win in eight games. The previous week, they lost the derby to Newcastle 0-1. A game they were probably unfortunate to lose somewhat. They were 14th in the table, but it was a downward trajectory since Christmas.
Cameroon star M’boma was an exciting January signing and Sunderland fans were keen to see what he could bring to the table. He had come on in the previous game but got the start in this match, with Niall Quinn on the bench.
Glenn Hoddle’s Tottenham were coming into this game with slim European football hopes and they were expected to win against a struggling Sunderland side.
In the first half, they certainly started the better. After an early Sunderland chance from Kevin Phillips, Tottenham began to assert their authority. Chances were coming thick and fast for the home team.
Teddy Sheringham (twice), Christian Ziege and Gus Poyet and Les Ferdinand all went very close for Spurs. The away side were thankful to goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen on more than one occasion. However, he could do nothing about the opening goal for the home side.
Spurs took the lead on 31 minutes, taking advantage of the defensive sloppiness that has typified Sunderland’s slide down the table as Poyet stole in unnoticed to bundle in Ziege’s corner.
Sunderland were living on borrowed time and the first half and it was incredible that they were only 1-0 down going into the break. Spurs missed chances to double their lead, with Sheringham firing over from six yards with only Sorensen to beat, and then Ziege heading over from a similar distance.
They were made to pay on the stroke of half time when M’boma got the equaliser. As Swiss defender Haas sent a long hit-and-hope ball, the striker got the better of Ledley King and calmly stroked the ball past Neil Sullivan. This put the Black Cats in on level terms at the break.
In the second half, an already depleted Sunderland side were forced into a change as Bjorklund limped off with a hamstring injury. This was just before a furious M’boma had protests for a penalty waved away.
As the game grew on, Sunderland tired and Spurs smelt blood. They continued to create many more chances with Sheringham and Poyet both missing headers which should have hit the target at least.
Tottenham’s frustrations were banished on 62 minutes when they regained the lead. Ziege cut in from the left, and after drawing Sorensen unselfishly, squared the ball for Ferdinand to tap in.
Sheringham tried his luck from another 25-yard free-kick after 67 minutes and although his shot was on target, it was comfortable for Sorensen. Niall Quinn made an appearance off the bench in a last-ditch rescue attempt, but to no avail for Peter Reid.
Peter Reid knew he was in trouble and was desperate for a win from somewhere. He touched on this post-match when he said,
We’ve got a busy treatment room at the moment - Bolton is a big game for us and we have got to dig in.
Big game it was. In fact, Sunderland got the win too. The good times were coming to an end, however, and it was only going to get worse from here on in.
Tottenham 2-1 Sunderland
Tottenham: Sullivan, Thatcher, King, Richards, Taricco (Gardner 89), Sherwood, Poyet, Ziege, Davies, Ferdinand (Rebrov 76), Sheringham.
Subs Not Used: Kelly, Leonhardsen, Etherington.
Sunderland: Sorensen, Haas, McCartney, Bjorklund (Schwarz 58), Craddock, Gray, Reyna (Williams 53), McAteer, Mboma (Quinn 72), Kilbane, Phillips.
Subs Not Used: Macho, Bellion.
Ref: R Styles (Waterlooville).