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On This Day (20 August 1991): Sunderland favourite makes a dream debut

Denis Smith’s side cruised to a big win 31 years ago today, looking good in every sense as they did so…

Still a fan favourite three decades later, Sunderland’s classic change strip of 1991 to 1994 made its competitive debut on this day.

The white and blue kit with additional black and green trim is often associated with the 1991-92 FA Cup final appearance, although when it was first introduced at the start of that season people had their eyes on a promotion push – and a victory in its maiden outing further boosted those hopes.

Denis Smith’s men had been handed a tough couple opening of fixtures but after starting with a Roker Park draw against Derby County, who like them had just come down from Division One, they travelled to next opponents Barnsley in good spirits. The Yorkshire club were also expected to do well having just missed out on the Play-Off spots but on the night they proved to be no match for Sunderland, who produced a brilliant white performance.

Goalscorer Gary wears the top again later in the season, although a darker version of the shorts were used at Barnsley

Starting with an early goal from Gary Owers, the side quickly got into their groove and gave a packed away end at Oakwell plenty to shout about.

Two more quality strikes followed, but the win was built upon hard work and organisation as much as anything else – Sunderland’s spine of central defenders Gary Bennett and Richard Ord and central midfielders Paul Bracewell and Brian Atkinson providing a strong foundation from which every member of the team played their part.

The standard of the goals was the cherry on the cake, but it was hard to say which was the best. Owers’ opener had been a smart overhead kick from the edge of the box whilst Gordon Armstrong made it 2-0 with a header from the same range that was strikingly similar to his more famous goal against Chelsea later in the campaign.

Substitute Colin Pascoe then put the finishing touch to a flowing move from close range in the dying moments, his well-timed run proving there had been no sulking having initially been dropped to the bench by Smith.

A retro classic...

The boss was at pains afterwards to point out that the decision to switch out Pascoe for Thomas Hauser was purely tactical, stating that he’d felt the Welshman had been one of his best players against the Rams.

The decision had paid off though, as not only did Pascoe have the energy to keep pace with Marco Gabbiadini as he broke away to create the third, but Hauser had played very well and produced what many thought was his best performance in a Sunderland shirt – new design or otherwise.

Having a hand in the first goal when he kept the ball alive in the danger area and flicked it towards Owers, the big man was a real handful following his return from injury and helped give purpose to the Lads’ forward play.

Despite the promising start though, form soon tailed off and the iconic Hummel kit never did see top-flight action.

Its final first team appearance came back at Barnsley three years later, but by then the tables had turned and it was the home side that romped to a 4-0 victory – a sad end for a much loved design in which the side looked the part no matter what the result.

Tuesday 20 August 1991

Barclays League Division Two

Barnsley 0

Sunderland 0 (Owers 16, Armstrong 38, Pascoe 89)

Sunderland: Norman; Williams, Bracewell, Ord, Hardyman; Owers, Bracewell, Atkinson, Armstrong; Hauser (Pascoe 72), Gabbiadini. Unused: Sampson

Oakwell, attendance 12, 454


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