1977/1978 ended with Sunderland in form, and our opening match of the new Division Two campaign, played on this day, saw us extend our run to six wins out of seven league games, with the final two victories, by a quirk of the fixture list, both being over Charlton Athletic.
It was a sequence of results that would normally help to create a positive mood around Roker Park, but the following morning’s Sunday Sun told a different story.
Give us a break, my team can’t relax, bellowed the headline, as Lads boss Jimmy Adamson took a swipe at the Wearside faithful after witnessing the crowd slow hand clapping his side in the second half.
It was a remarkable outburst in which the Northumbrian pulled few punches, with his verbal blast being quoted as follows;
My players are more relaxed away from home.
It’s wrong – it’s stupid. The crowd is responsible and they must realise this.
The fans are making it easier for the opposition and difficult for our own players.
Football is meant to be played with a chuckle in your boots and at home we’re not doing it.
I’m convinced we’ll play better at Orient and Brighton next week.
The comments came during a post-match press conference, with another local newspaper piece reporting that Adamson also claimed that supporters had regularly been heckling him directly and telling him to ‘get back to Burnley’.
It was strong stuff and not the type of thing fans would’ve expected to see from an incumbent manager, and yet the picture had seemed so much brighter during the early stages of the game itself.
Playing in sunny conditions, the Lads got off to a fantastic start.
Gary Rowell had scored the final goal in a 3-0 victory over the Addicks in late April to bring the curtain down on the previous season, and he continued where he left off, scoring after only five minutes with a simple finish.
Although straightforward, it was a well-crafted move, with Mick Docherty playing a free kick diagonally into the box for an unmarked Joe Bolton to head into the path of Rowell, who found himself in space inside the six yard box and nodded in with confidence.
It said a lot, however, that once Adamson was done with the fans, he singled goalkeeper Barry Siddall out for praise and claimed that it was his saves that secured the points.
Despite being ahead, we struggled to impose themselves - something which might’ve contributed to what the gaffer felt had been a poor atmosphere.
Whether coming out and saying as much was the right thing to do is open to debate, and of course it only heaped more pressure on his side.
Basing ourselves in a hotel near Gatwick Airport for the week, it was almost inevitable that following the big buildup, we’d lose both away games.
After the recent upturn in form, the defeats put everybody back to square one. There had been rumblings of discontent prior to that spell, as Adamson failed to get any consistency from an exciting squad, and taking on the supporters did little to help as performances began to fluctuate once more.
Subsequently, we mostly bobbed around in mid-table until October, and it seemed if it was best for all parties when it emerged at the end of the month that the manager would be leaving for Leeds United.
Perhaps Adamson was just laying the groundwork ahead of his departure when he either boldly or foolishly (depending on your point of view) spoke out.
The Elland Road hot seat was vacant at the time and although Jock Stein was appointed a couple of days later, he only remained in the role for a few weeks, with his decision to take charge of the Scotland national team reopening the door.
There was certainly no love lost between those in the stands and the outgoing boss either, as the league fixture that followed the Charlton match saw Roker’s lowest Division Two attendance of the season, while a further 5,000 spectators turned out for caretaker boss Dave Merrington’s first home game than had witnessed the conclusion of the Adamson era.
Bizarrely enough, this narrow 1-0 success two months prior could well have signalled the beginning of the end.
Saturday 19 August 1978
Football League Division Two
Sunderland 1 (Rowell 5’)
Charlton Athletic 0
Sunderland: Siddall, Henderson, Bolton; Chisholm, Clarke, Ashurst; Kerr, Rostron (Lee 75’), Entwistle; Docherty, Rowell