Saturday’s game against Watford has the feel of a match that could possibly live long in the memory. After all, a late-season charge back to the Premier League in front of a sold out crowd isn’t unfamiliar territory for us!
With excitement and tension building, it brings back memories of an encounter that took place sixteen years ago today, against Burnley at the Stadium of Light.
This was the night we practically clinched promotion under Roy Keane and a game that ended with Carlos Edwards scoring an unforgettable pile driver that almost took the roof off the stadium.
2006/2007 was a season of hope and a new beginning.
Niall Quinn, backed by the Drumaville Consortium, had replaced Bob Murray as chairman, with Murray keen to ensure the club was passed on to someone he could trust.
After searching for a new manager, Quinn famously and unsuccessfully took over until he could find someone to do the job.
As we all know, Keane was that man, and he and Quinn invited the fans onto their famous magic carpet ride!
Sunderland’s start under the former Manchester United captain was solid and steady, but unspectacular.
A run of inconsistent results hampered our early progress but once the New Year arrived, the team was bolstered by signings such as Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson and Carlos Edwards, and we soared upwards from that point on.
We lost a single game after Christmas to Colchester United, which was six days prior to the visit of Burnley. That defeat likely focused the minds and the fans were given a truly classic match, capped by a sensational winner.
The Clarets were a decent Championship outfit filled with seasoned pros, including former Black Cat Steven Caldwell, who’d headed the winner that had clinched promotion two years earlier.
With a 44,448 strong crowd inside the Stadium of Light, there was a buoyant yet tense atmosphere.
Daryl Murphy gave us an early lead after he beat the offside trap to get on the end of Dean Whitehead’s low cross into the box and minutes later, David Connolly had his penalty saved by Burnley goalkeeper Brian Jensen after he was fouled in the area.
We continued to pile the pressure on, with Murphy and his fellow Irishman both missing decent chances.
This let the visitors off the hook and subsequently gave them the momentum to find a way back into the game, with Wade Elliott playing an integral role in both goals.
He won a penalty after being fouled by Darren Ward, which was converted by former Sunderland player Andy Gray and minutes later, Elliott put the away side ahead.
He picked up the ball just inside the Sunderland half before launching a swerving shot that left goalkeeper Ward helpless. It was a true sucker punch that stunned both the Stadium of Light and Ward himself.
To our credit, we pushed on from here as we so often did under Keane, and Burnley’s lead lasted less than five minutes.
Connolly showed nerves of steel to equalise from the spot after missing his earlier penalty, before the big moment arrived in the eightieth minute.
Evans won the ball in superb fashion, and we swept forward through Tobias Hysen, Grant Leadbitter and Murphy, who worked the ball to Edwards on the opposite flank, just inside the Burnley half.
Without breaking stride, Edwards nonchalantly let fly with a shot that went faster than Tony Mowbray going through a bag of Revels, and straight into the top corner of Jensen’s goal.
It was a sublime moment from a player who was superb for the team in the second half of the season, and it was the goal that secured our place on the magic carpet, as it took Keane’s men to the Premier League where the fun would continue.
Sunderland: Ward, Simpson, Nosworthy; Evans, Collins, Edwards; Whitehead, Miller (Leadbitter 73’), Stokes (Hysen 71’); Murphy, Connolly (John 86).
Subs Not Used: Fulop, Yorke.
Booked: Miller, Edwards.
Goals: Murphy 14’, Connolly 54’ (pen), Edwards 80’.
Burnley: Jensen, Duff, Thomas; Caldwell, Harley, Elliott (Spicer 73’); Djemba-Djemba, McCann, (Gudjonsson 29’); Jones (Akinbiyi 58’), Gray, McVeigh.
Subs Not Used: Coyne, Coughlan.
Booked: Duff, Djemba-Djemba, Gudjonsson.
Goals: Gray 39’ (pen) Elliott 50’.
Referee: T.M Kettle (Rutland)