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Soccer - Barclays League Division One - Coventry City v Sunderland - Highfield Road

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On This Day (27 June 1990): Sunderland confirm top target to partner Marco!

As Sunderland prepare for life in the First Division, assistant manager Viv Busby confirms our top target to replace Eric Gates as Marco Gabbiadini’s partner up top.

Photo by Dave Munden - PA Images via Getty Images

It had been almost a month since our capitulation at Wembley against Ossie Ardiles’ Swindon Town and two weeks since the decision was taken that we would become the beneficiaries of the guilty verdict handed out to Swindon - that meant we were now a First Division club.

It was unclear how the hearing would go, not in terms of Swindon Town being denied their place in the top flight, but the big question was: who would replace them?

Ron Atkinson’s Sheffield Wednesday had put forward a compelling case to retain their status in Division One after relegation and Newcastle United had unsurprisingly had the local member of parliament raise their case in the house of commons due to the fact they finished third in the Second Division - despite the fact they failed to progress to the inaugural play-off final to be held at Wembley.

Soccer - Barclays League Division Two - Playoff Finals - Swindon Town v Sunderland - Wembley Stadium
I hope they kept the champagne on ice for a while...
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

All this uncertainty resulted in Denis Smith having to play catch-up on a shoestring and although the manager was still on holiday on this day back in 1990, things were beginning to move.

Eric Gates had moved on to Carlisle United following the play-off final and the highest priority for recruitment was his replacement to partner Marco Gabbiadini up top for the Lads in the top flight.

An added complication to completing deals quickly that summer was the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and on this day 32 years ago, it was confirmed that Sunderland and manager Denis Smith were waiting patiently for the World Cup to end to make his move for Le Harve striker John Byrne.

The Republic of Ireland international had previously played under Denis Smith at York City which was the springboard for a big move to Queens Park Rangers and was ready to return to England from the French league.

John Byrne Sunderland AFC Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images

Viv Busby was the man briefing the press while Denis Smith was finishing his holiday abroad and confirmed he was the clubs top target:

We wanted someone who could do what Eric Gates has done over the last few years and John fits the bill perfectly. There aren’t too many players in the Gates mould but he is a virtual carbon copy.

We like to think we made John into the player he is today. Since leaving York he has gone from strength to strength and I know he enjoys playing under Denis and me. He is our top priority at the moment and hopefully we will be able to afford him.

Sunderland were also linked with Bradford City full-back Brian Mitchell, with Viv Busby emphasising the importance of getting target in as soon as possible:

Ideally we want everyone together at the earliest opportunity. The transfer market is dead at the moment, but it will soon hot up once the World Cup is over.

Peter Davenport of Sunderland
Denis Smith eventually landed Peter Davenport following John Byrne’s move to Brighton

As it turned out, John Byrne moved to Brighton due to his agent not informing the striker of Denis Smith’s offer, which resulted in Peter Davenport becoming the man to work with Marco Gabbiadini to help the Lads survive in the top division, and we didn’t bring in a full-back.

But, also on this day in 1990, a date of July 2nd was set for Swindon Town’s appeal, where the Wiltshire club’s demotion to Division Three was to be questioned on appeal.

It was also the day after England’s last-gasp victory over Belgium in the 1990 World Cup to set-up a clash with the surprise package of the tournament Cameroon in Naples. The victory over Belgium, that came courtesy of a David Platt volley in the final minute of extra time, came at a price with Terry Butcher, Des Walker and John Barnes all doubtful for the quarter-final clash.

David Platt
The ball hitting the back of the net after that volley from David Platt against Belgium in 1990

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