The 1990’s had got off to a flying start as we found ourselves challenging for promotion to the top flight only three years after dropping to the Third Division - but it didn’t half go downhill quickly.
The victory over the mags in the play-offs and Swindon Town’s fun times coming to an abrupt end meant that we returned to the First Division for the first time since relegation in 1985, but that was when the fun stopped.
An inspiring but ultimately immediate relegation was the beginning and it just seemed to spiral. Denis Smith made way as we struggled to meet expectations as one of the favourites for promotion as we looked for a swift return to Division One and Malcolm Crosby took the reigns in a move that was initially considered temporary.
However, this is Sunderland, and as we marched to the FA Cup final our form in Barclays League Division Two suffered, but Crosby was appointed as the new permanent manager based on his cup exploits.
Chairman Bob Murray never seemed convinced that this was the path forward but pressure from the fans meant the appointment was made, and in turn the new manager wasn’t backed in the transfer market. This resulted in Crosby, unknowingly, bringing in his future replacement to Roker on a free transfer.
34-year-old former England international Terry Butcher had signed for the club after being recommended by Crosby’s new assistant manager, who was the former assistant to Bobby Robson at Ipswich Town, Bobby Ferguson.
It was maybe inevitable, but Malcolm Crosby was out of the door following a 2-1 defeat to Steve Perryman’s Watford in late January and ten days later Terry Butcher took charge of his first fixture as our new player-manager as Glenn Hoddle’s Swindon Town came to town.
We should have maybe got the hint following that first ninety minutes as we went down to a single Paul Bodin strike - as the Lads missed two penalties.
We ended up finishing three places lower than when Crosby was relieved of his duties, only surviving the drop to the third tier on the final day of the season when other results saved us following a 3-1 defeat at Notts County. This brought Butcher to the obvious conclusion that a serious rebuilding job was required, and very quickly went to work in the summer of 1993.
It all began almost as soon as the final whistle went at Meadow Lane when Butcher attempted to chop his squad down to size when he transfer listed the likes of Gordon Armstrong and Gary Owers along with a few other names. The only problem was, there were no buyers for the players he transfer listed, which must have been great for the dressing room atmosphere over the summer months.
And on this day back in 1993, the first movement of personnel of the summer was announced when 34-year-old striker Mick Harford, who was purchased by Butcher only a few of months prior, made the move to Coventry City to link up with former Newcastle United striker Mick Quinn, as Bobby Gould agreed the £200,000 fee set by tribunal.
This led to speculation as to who Butcher would look to as Harford’s replacement, with all the talk up to that point pointing to Phil Gray from Luton Town. But with Luton target Mick Harford now moving to Coventry, it was assumed the deal was off without the offer of money plus Harford.
Speculation now ramped up that Terry Butcher was turning his attention to Southend United striker Brett Angell and was also about to clinch the signing of Birmingham City midfielder Ian Rodgerson. An offer had been made by Sunderland that fell below the Blues £500,000 valuation of the player and the deal looked set to go to a tribunal as in the case of Harford.
It was also revealed that, in the days before players from the continent became the majority, Butcher was running the rule over Bulgarian international midfielder Dimitar Vasev and Nigerian international striker Chima Okorie.
Off the pitch, Mick Buxton was confirmed as the clubs new reserve team coach which completed Terry Butcher’s new look backroom staff at Roker which had a very much a Sunderland feel about it.
Former player Ian Atkins had taken the position as Butcher’s assistant and George Herd and Jimmy Montgomery were in charge of the youth players at Sunderland for the upcoming season.
And finally... in other news on this day in 1993, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) had just completed a survey of pub prices across the country and had uncovered a surprising conclusion - the most expensive pint in the country was being served in Sunderland.
Clark’s Dreadnought was on offer at a “head-spinning” £2.42, with the cheapest in the country being served at 89p a pint by independent Manchester brewer Holt’s. The survey also said (just call me Les Dennis...) that in the North a pint averaged £1.25 - compared with £1.52 in the South East.
Think I spilled £1.52’s worth the last time I had a pint down there.