Chris Wynn says…
One goalkeeping performance against the Lads that always springs to mind is that of Mark Bosnich at Roker Park back in October 1993.
It was a League Cup third round tie in front of 23,692 (which was the biggest crowd of the season) under the floodlights, and he was ridiculous.
It was Terry Butcher’s first full season in charge and even though it got off to a shocking start as we got thumped 5-0 on the opening day to a Derby County side that included Marco Gabbiadini, we weren’t doing too badly when Ron Atkinson’s side rolled into town.
We’d pulled ourselves back up to mid-table and had beaten Premier League opposition in the previous round, as we turned over Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds United 4-2 on aggregate.
Phil Gray and Don Goodman ripped Leeds apart over the two games and they picked up where they left off against Aston Villa, but we hadn’t accounted for Bosnich.
Save after save kept us out and they weren’t everyday routine saves; they were top drawer, and because we couldn’t do the same at our end, they had four shots and they won 4-1.
After the game, I’m pretty sure that Ron Atkinson said something like ‘We got hammered 1-4!’.
Incidentally, Martin Smith also told us on our podcast some time ago that Atkinson made a bid for him following the game because the Villa boss hadn’t seen anyone else give Earl Barrett such a headache.
It was pretty much downhill for Butcher after this game and it was mainly down to Bosnich.
Andrew Smithson says…
It’s rare for me to pay much attention to opposition players, but there have been one or two individual performances that have stood out over the years.
Chris’s Mark Bosnich recollections certainly resonate and I seem to recall the Aussie being the centre of attention again when Aston Villa came back up for a Premiership game a couple of years later, although that might’ve been for some sort of off-field controversy.
I know he saved a penalty from David Kelly that day, but Paul Stewart prodded in the rebound.
Oddly enough, Kelly is always linked in my mind to another top goalkeeping performance.
He scored his first goal for Sunderland on his home debut against Reading, but was denied a couple more by Bobby Mikhailov, who had a great game.
We drew 2-2 but could’ve easily won it, which was all the more frustrating because it was the second year running in which the visitors had somehow managed to escape with something.
In 1994 they’d pulled off a real ‘smash and grab’ at Roker Park and on that occasion it was Mikhailov’s predecessor Shaka Hislop who was the star man, with a string of top class stops.
The lad was simply unbeatable and for those who weren’t there, think of Richard Kingson for Blackpool in 2010 and you’ll get the picture.
I don’t think Kingson or Mikhailov played that many games in England and it’s typical that their best performances were probably saved for us.
Like a striker who breaks their duck against the Lads, there have been a few dodgy keepers who kept a clean sheet against us, but when someone is having a blinder you’ve just got to hold your hands up!
Michael Dunne says…
I’m going to go for an Irishman and pick Shay Given.
This may be slightly biased but I went to my first game against Newcastle in February 2002 at the Stadium of Light.
It was a typically frustrating game where we lost but played well, and the main reason was the performance of Given between the sticks. For a relatively small goalkeeper, he was a commanding figure and was also a fantastic shot-stopper.
In that game, along with a shocking pitch, Given’s two fantastic saves always stand out.
After we went 1-0 down to a goal from Nikos Dabizas, we piled on the pressure and certainly deserved an equaliser.
With Niall Quinn creating our best chances for Kevin Phillips, we almost got a late equaliser when Phillips’ curling shot was heading for the top corner, but for the fingertips of Given.
In fairness, he did this throughout his career for club and country and it’s just a pity that his best days were spent at a club we naturally dislike.
Martin Wanless says…
One of the ones that sticks in my head – not only for the performance he turned in on the day, but also what that actually meant longer term for the club – was Tony Norman for Hull City against us in October 1988.
We’d just been promoted to the second division, and while Iain Hesford had played pretty well in that third division season, Denis Smith was still intent on replacing him. Stoke’s Peter Fox was perenially linked, but after this game at Boothferry Park, Smith’s focus changed.
The game, in which we were entirely dominant, finished 0-0 – and the reason for that was Tony Norman. Up against our strikeforce of Marco Gabbiadini and Billy Whitehurst, Norman produced save after save from the duo... as well as pretty much every other Sunderland player that day. It really was Sunderland versus Tony Norman, and the Welsh international came out on top. His virtuoso performance began with a spectacular early save from Whitehurst, and went on from there.
Incidentally, this game also saw Raich Carter and Bobby Gurney come onto the field at half time and do a few keepy-ups and passing the ball about. Carter of course had an association with Hull, and I reckon this could have been the last time they appeared in front of a Sunderland crowd.
Despite that, the day belonged to Tony Norman – and a couple of months later, he was lining up for the lads.