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On This Day (10 April 1965): A Sunderland cult hero is born!

Happy 57th birthday to former Sunderland striker, Thomas Hauser!

On the same day the Lads were earning a very respectable Division One point at Goodison Park, a future Sunderland striker was born in Germany. In time, Thomas Hauser would grow up to make his own mark on the history of English top-flight football, and despite a relatively small number of appearances he still remains a well-remembered figure on Wearside.

After growing up near the border of Switzerland, where his father Helmut was a league winner with FC Basel, Hauser followed in those footsteps and made his senior debut with the RotBlau while still a teenager. In 1988 he moved to cross-city rivals BSC Old Boys, and by the time of the mid-season break had scored nine goals in 12 games to put his side in the play-off places.

Thomas in action against Brighton & Hove Albion. Picture taken from Leicester City 1989-90 edition of the Roker Review

That impressive return prompted a trial at FC Stuggart, but despite reported interest from several other clubs in his homeland, the bustling forward was keen to play in England.

Sunderland boss Denis Smith was on hand to offer that opportunity, and on the same day in February 1989 that Peter Barnes joined the club on a short term contract both Hauser and Derry City midfielder Paul Doolan agreed to a trial so Smith could take a closer look. Neither Barnes nor Doolan would stay for long, but after watching Hauser impress in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Middlesbrough, Smith was keen to make it a permanent arrangement.

Businessman Andre Bernascone owned Hauser’s contract on behalf of Old Boys and while this was a common arrangement in Switzerland at the time, it meant he had the final say in where the in-demand player would go.

After agreeing a reported transfer fee of around £220,000 with Sunderland the deal was done, and three days later the new boy made his first team debut when he came on as a substitute against Hull City.

Having undergone a three-month winter break before his move though, Hauser did not start a game for several weeks and would see his playing time heavily restricted during his first season at Roker.

Despite this, he had opened his goal scoring account in a draw against Oldham Athletic in April, and followed it up with another strike as Sunderland beat Shrewsbury Town in the following match, but with Smith describing his purchase as a “workaholic”, Hauser was expected to kick on in 1989-90 only for a hamstring injury sustained in a pre-season game against Crewe Alexandra to derail things.

He quickly found himself playing second fiddle to the ‘G-Force’ of Marco Gabbiadini and Eric Gates again, but in addition to a healthy record at reserve level he was still able to contribute when called upon.

Two poacher’s finishes against Brighton & Hove Albion in February 1990 came at a crucial time. It gave Sunderland a much needed victory following an eight game winless run and helped reboot their campaign, which eventually ended with promotion and Hauser boasting a record of six goals from six league starts. There had been a further 19 appearances from the bench across all competitions too though, and by now the infamous ‘U-boat’ nickname had been coined for the German sub.

That summer French club FC Brest inquired about Hauser’s availability, but he remained at Sunderland only for a snapped achilles, sustained against Bristol City in the League Cup, to rule him out for several months. The problem would continue to cause issues in coming years, but three days after his 26th birthday he did manage to become the first German to score in Division One. The goal came in a defeat in Southampton, but while it was a nice footnote to his time in the country it proved to be his penultimate strike in England.

Bad luck continued to hamper his chances thereafter. After starting the 1991-92 campaign with a brief stint playing out wide, he scored in a Rumblelows Cup defeat to Huddersfield Town before being forced off with a fresh injury later in the same match. A bid for Hauser from Stoke City manager Lou Macari was rejected soon after and with Gabbiadini having just been sold to Crystal Palace this could have been his chance to shine, but it ended up being a frustrating period in which he was unable to ever regain full fitness.

Thomas celebrates against Brighton & Hove Albion. Picture taken from Leicester City 1989-90 edition of the Roker Review

Still feeling his achilles and playing through the pain barrier, Hauser managed another couple of substitutes appearances but, after coming on from the bench once more on Boxing Day 1991, he wasn’t seen in a Sunderland shirt again. Struggling on bravely behind the scenes, it would be another ten months before SC Cambuur took a punt on Hauser and offered him the chance of continuing his rehabilitation over in Holland.

Unfortunately, Hauser was unable to ever properly recover and while he has since moved out of the game completely and moved into sales, he still follows the Lads’ fortunes from afar. In his pomp he was good in the air and fast across the ground, and while his time on the pitch may not have always gone to plan it seemed as if Hauser relished life in Sunderland and made the most of the experience.

Happy birthday Thomas!

Thomas Hauser


Schopfheim, 10 April 1965

SAFC debut:

Sunderland 2 (Pascoe 71, Gabbiadini 81)

Hull City 0

Barclays League Division Two Roker Park 25 February 1989

Final SAFC appearance:

Tranmere Rovers 1 (Irons 28)

Sunderland 0

Barclays League Division Two Prenton Park 26 December 1991

Total appearances/goals for SAFC:

26 (+ 39 as sub)/11


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