May 2016 was a good time to be a Sunderland fan, with supporters in high spirits having just enjoyed a promising run of results under Sam Allardyce. There was also a visit from England to enjoy on this date too, and as Roy Hodgson ramped up his preparations ahead the upcoming Euros in France the prospects for club and country seemed high.
The Stadium of Light had already hosted two high profile senior England men’s game before the visit of Australia, who become the first national side from outside Europe to visit the ground. The match was part of a three game tour organised by the FA that included fixtures at the City of Manchester Stadium and Wembley, and with international dates outside of the capital always popular tickets sold quickly for the Wearside clash.
A sell out crowd welcomed the sides onto the pitch and within minutes they had witnessed history as Marcus Rashford became the youngest player to score on their England debut. The goal came from a quality volley from the forward but had an unfortunate Sunderland link – the ball fell for him after a cross from Raheem Sterling looped up off future Black Cat Bailey Wright.
Another familiar name was also on show, with Jordan Henderson proudly wearing the Three Lions back on home turf. The Academy of Light graduate came close to extending England’s lead with a trademark sweep, but whilst Matt Ryan was able to claw that one away he had little chance with the second goal.
Wayne Rooney, on as a second half substitute, had made his full England debut at the stadium against Turkey 13 years earlier and he blasted in following a swift counterattack. The final goal also came from a substitute, but unfortunately for Eric Dier it was into his own net as he tried to deal with a dangerous ball across the six yard box. Stooping low, he directed it through the legs of north east born goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Dier had been brought on as one of several changes as Hodgson looked to name his tournament squad four days later. One time Sunderland loanee Danny Rose made the cut despite remaining on the bench against Australia, but as we know the team flattered to deceive in the competition and were dumped out by Iceland in the Round of 16.
That came in the June, during which anticipation on Wearside was well and truly dampened. Hodgson’s decision not to call up Jermain Defoe had already raised questions and with John O’Shea’s Republic of Ireland and Seb Larsson’s Sweden also eliminated by this stage there was little Sunderland interest remaining. Worse still, Hodgson stepped down following the failure and within moments of this being announced Allardyce was being hotly tipped as his replacement.
It later came out that Big Sam was already having reservations about his position at Sunderland and in truth the lure of the England job simply accelerated his departure. It was still something of a shock when it happened though, and had seemed impossible just a few weeks before.
Friday 27 May 2016
England 2 (Rashford 3’, Rooney 55’)
Australia 1 (Dier o.g. 75’)
England: Foster (Heaton), Clyne, Smalling (Dier), Stones, Bertrand, Wilshere (Milner), Henderson, Drinkwater, Lallana (Rooney), Rashford (Barkley), Sterling (Townsend). Unused: Hart, Walker, Kane, Alli, Rose.
Stadium of Light, attendance 45,595