The summer transfer window of 2008 was an interesting one as a Sunderland fan.
Roy Keane had retained Sunderland’s status as a Premier League side in our first season back and was on a mission to build on it, and bring in genuine quality and experience to the team.
Sunderland were changing tact. Up until this point, Keane appeared to focus on players he knew or worked with - and this led to many former Manchester United, Celtic and Republic of Ireland players joining the club, though in this summer transfer window, Keane was going in a direction that few would have seen coming.
We brought in players whose reputations weren’t exactly glowing - with Pascal Chimbonda, El Hadji Diouf and Djibril Cissé joining the club.
Controversial, contentious and debatable signings they were and it appeared Keane was on a collision course with players who would give as good as they got. The Irishman picked a challenge and if anything, and it was going to be interesting to see how it developed.
Keane handed a debut to his new striker, the aforementioned Cissé, and the funky Frenchman was seen as an exciting signing - a man who was well known to Premier League fans after his spell with Liverpool, helping them to win the Champions League in 2005.
After an opening day defeat to Liverpool at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland were determined to get a result. They had played very well against The Reds and would have earned a deserved point had it not been for Fernando Torres’ late winner.
They got their rewards in this game as Cissé came off the bench to nod home a fantastic cross from Daryl Murphy to give the away side a 2-1 win.
Spurs, under the stewardship of Juande Ramos entered the new season in disarray. Robbie Keane had joined Liverpool and their other star striker, Dimitar Berbatov, didn’t start this game as he itched for a move away. Ramos cited a ‘lack of focus’ for his reasons to keep him on the bench, with a move to Manchester United mooted.
It was a particularly low key first half with chances at a premium, and both teams struggling to create much - but this all changed when Kieran Richardson’s rocket at the beginning of the second half sparked the game into life.
The ex-Manchester United player rifled a 25-yard drive just inside the far post to put the Black Cats into the lead, earning himself a booking for taking his shirt off as he celebrated.
Spurs piled the pressure on and brought reinforcements in the shape of Giovani Dos Santos and Tom Huddlestone. This appeared to spark the home side into life, and they got the leveller through Jermain Jenas.
Jenas then headed just wide as he beat Craig Gordon to a bouncing ball before, with 17 minutes left, he side-footed home the rebound after Luka Modric twice saw shots blocked.
Having levelled the scores it seemed Spurs would surely push on but once again they went off the boil and Cisse, who had come off the bench to replace Richardson, made them pay after 83 minutes.
When Daryl Murphy swung the ball over from the left the French international rose unmarked to power a header past Gomes, securing Sunderland’s first Premier League win of the season.
Keane was delighted:
Tottenham had a right go at us, as you’d expect in the second half, but we maybe just about edged it. The good sign is I think there’s a lot more to come from this team.
Cisse has got that physical presence and the pace and we had a feeling amongst the staff that if he got on he could do a bit of damage to Tottenham and he certainly did.
The players showed great character because it’s always disappointing when you concede but Daryl Murphy has put in a great ball and it’s great to win the game, particularly because last year our away form was so poor.
Cissé contributed for sure - he got ten goals throughout the season, best remembered for his goals in the Tyne-Wear derby. Keane’s resignation appeared to scupper chances of his move becoming permanent - something Cissé referenced himself in interviews in more recent times:
Roy wanted to sign me, the fans seemed to like me - I still get messages saying I should have stayed there - and I would have signed, for sure, but in the end I think the price was too high.
The fee Marseille wanted for me was seen as being expensive.
What surprised me was Sunderland then buying Darren Bent from Tottenham for a few more million than I would have cost them, so I don’t really know what happened there.
Tottenham: Gomes, Zokora, King, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto (Huddlestone 56), Modric, Lennon (Giovanni 56), Jenas, Bentley, Bale, Bent.
Subs Not Used: Cesar, Gilberto, Gunter, Dawson, O’Hara.
Goals: Jenas 73.
Sunderland: Gordon, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Higginbotham, Collins, Malbranque, Whitehead, Reid (Miller 87), Richardson (Cisse 65), Diouf, Murphy.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Chopra, Leadbitter, Healy, Stokes.
Booked: Richardson, Malbranque.
Goals: Richardson 55, Cisse 83.
Ref: Mike Dean (Wirral).