In the summer of 2014, there was a positive vibe surrounding Sunderland and their fans after the heroics at the end of the previous season.
Gus Poyet attempted to build a stronger squad - and with this being his first summer transfer window, there was hope that he could create a squad that would fit and suit the style of play that he wanted to implement.
Although there was the drawn-out saga of Fabio Borini’s on/off transfer to Sunderland, which unfortunately persisted for the majority of the summer, Poyet still brought in some new players.
In the biggest move financially, Jack Rodwell joined the club from Manchester City in a multi-million move and hopes were high that he could finally fulfill his potential in the North East. Will Buckley, Patrick Van Aanholt, Costel Pantimilon, Jordi Gomez and Billy Jones also arrived to bolster our ranks.
And in a game on this day eight years ago at The Hawthorns, Rodwell and Van Aanholt made their debuts from the start whilst Gomez and Buckley came off the bench to make theirs in Sunderland’s new-look lineup.
It was an entertaining spectacle for an opening day clash, and it could not have started any better for the away side as, after five minutes, there was a rare goal from midfielder Lee Cattermole.
Catts, who had only ever scored once before for the club, found himself in space just outside the box and drove a long range shot into the top corner. As the ball went in, there was a look of disbelief on the face of the midfielder and his teammates as they celebrated an unlikely goal from an unlikely source.
The goal appeared to settle Sunderland and they were very comfortable for the early parts of the first half. West Brom had the majority of the possession, but struggled to utilise it.
A couple of corners around the midway point of the half hinted at a growing threat from the hosts, and on 24 minutes last season’s top scorer Saido Berahino worked a yard of space in the box - but fired wide.
Berahino started to threaten more and more, coming into the game as the first half went on.
The pressure told on 42 minutes when Berahino tucked his penalty low into the left corner after Anichebe rolled Roberge in the box and went down under what was adjudged by the referee to be a pull, although the contact appeared to be minimal.
Gus Poyet was furious and made his feelings clear. In truth, it did look soft but it did appear that the equaliser was coming such was the pressure the home side put Sunderland under.
Level at half time, West Brom continued from they left off at the end of the first half.
Whilst Steven Fletcher had a goal ruled out for offside early in the second half, there was a sense of urgency from the home team appearing inspired from whatever their new manager Alan Irvine had said.
As the half got closer to the end, Sunderland looked more and more vulnerable. They were let off the hook as Craig Dawson’s header - which was hacked off the line but shown to have gone in by the Goal Decision System - was disallowed for a soft foul on Mannone.
They were still level. Not for long though.
Mannone did well to keep out Graham Dorrans’ initial shot, but when the rebound came to former Sunderland player Craig Gardner he lifted a fine cross to the back post, where Berahino arrived on cue to volley home.
That looked to be good enough for the Baggies to kick off the season with a win, but there was late drama as debutant Van Aanholt pulled the ball back from the dead ball line, and Sebastian Larsson cooly slotted it home to snatch a point for Poyet’s team.
Post-game, the Sunderland boss was visibly furious with the first half penalty call but refused to get embroiled in an issue with referees at such an early part of the season.
I don’t want to get in trouble. I’m very disappointed that this happened in the first league game of the season. We are not playing football to give soft decisions.
Everyone in the stadium thought it was stopping to give a yellow card to Anichebe.
I don’t know what happened. It’s not the way I wanted to start the league, talking about referees again. I want to talk about football.
This early draw set the tone for the season as Sunderland went on to draw lots of games, which eventually spelled the end of manager Poyet after Christmas - despite recruiting Jermain Defoe in what was the deal of the century.
West Brom (4-2-3-1): Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Olsson, Pocognoli, Mulumbu, Gardner (Yacob 83’), Dorrans (Sessegnon 83’), Berahino, Brunt (Baird 76’), Anichebe.
Subs: Myhill, Ideye, Davidson, O’Neil, Sessegnon, Yacob, Baird.
Sunderland (4-3-3): Mannone, Roberge, van Aanholt, Brown (Altidore 80’), O’Shea (c), Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell (Gomez 67’), Johnson (Buckley 72’), Wickham, Fletcher