As soon as it looked like Sam Allardyce was leaving his post as Sunderland manager the consensus seemed to be that David Moyes would be the next best alternative.
Allardyce had done a good job at the club but now SAFC badly needed some stability – and the majority felt the Scot would deliver it.
Moyes’ appointment on this day was greeted warmly, therefore, and whilst his tenure proved to be anything but stable it certainly got off to a good start.
Just hours after Moyes’ four-year deal was confirmed, the team continued their pre-season preparations with a friendly at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium – their first visit to the ground.
Deciding to let coaches Robbie Stockdale and Paul Bracewell take charge, the boss watched on from the stands and was given a rapturous welcome from the away end upon taking up his seat. With the sun out and a healthy Sunderland contingent in full voice the stage was set for an enjoyable afternoon then, and with a new gaffer to impress the Lads looked raring to go.
Sunderland dominated large spells of the first half and fully deserved their lead following Fabio Borini’s well hit goal. The Italian had already gone close before his 30th minute strike, as had Jermain Defoe, but things soon changed after half time following Jerry Yates’ equaliser.
The hosts had already looked dangerous in fits and starts, former player Greg Halford being one of those to go close, but after pulling themselves level Rotherham grew in confidence.
An otherwise composed Younes Kaboul was thankful to Vito Mannone for preventing what would have been an unfortunate own goal after he had sliced an attempted clearance, and with the Millers continuing to put the pressure on a shock result suddenly seemed possible.
Youngsters Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch brought fresh energy to Sunderland after coming on from the bench however, and the team got back on top in the closing stages.
They were able to turn their late dominance into a winner too, with another new arrival scoring the goal. Charles N’Zogbia, like Moyes, had regularly been linked with the club and was now finally playing for it – albeit whilst on trial. He had done his chances of a contact no harm either when he helped create Borini’s opener, and with six minutes left he joined him on the scoresheet with a smart shot from the edge of the box to beat Lee Camp.
Yates came close to a second leveller, but his effort went wide, meaning the Moyes era had got off to a winning start. He then oversaw four more highly encouraging results against Stade Nyonnais, Dijon, Montpellier and Borussia Dortmund, but when the real stuff began the situation quickly turned sour and the squad Allardyce had assembled soon fell apart.
Moyes, the man that was supposed to steady the ship, ended up being the one that sank it. Since 2010-11 the club had been in a perpetual cycle of managerial changes and ultimately successful survival battles whereas the first person to see whole a full campaign from start to finish in five years was the one to eventually bring relegation.
It may have started well, but his reign proved to be a disaster; N’Zogbia never did sign up full time but looking back on it now, most fans would have preferred it if he had been the one that stuck around instead.
Saturday 23 July 2016
Rother United 1 (Yates 46)
Sunderland 2 (Borini 30, N’Zogbia 84)
Sunderland: Pickford (Mannone 46); J Robson, Kone (E Robson 85), Kaboul (Ledger 77), van Aanholt; Borini (Watmore 56), Rodwell, N’Zogbia, Khazri (Gooch 65); Defoe (Honeyman 75), Lens (Greenwood 86). Unused: Stryjek, T Robson, Asoro.
New York Stadium, Rotherham attendance 6,676