Ha’way Back When: Debutants impress on opening day, but Sunderland draw a blank

Sunderland line up ahead of the 1969-70 season. Back, from left: Ritchie Pitt, Colin Symm, Gordon Harris, Jim Montgomery, Len Ashurst, Martin Harvey, Brian Heslop. Front: Billy Hughes, Dennis Tueart, Calvin Palmer, Colin Todd, Joe Baker, Ian Porterfield, Bobby Kerr
Sunderland line up ahead of the 1969-70 season. Back, from left: Ritchie Pitt, Colin Symm, Gordon Harris, Jim Montgomery, Len Ashurst, Martin Harvey, Brian Heslop. Front: Billy Hughes, Dennis Tueart, Calvin Palmer, Colin Todd, Joe Baker, Ian Porterfield, Bobby Kerr
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Sunderland 0 Coventry City 0 – August 9, 1969

Joe Baker was the highest profile debutant as Sunderland began the 1969/70 season with a scrappy goalless draw at home to defensive-minded Coventry.

But Mick McGiven stole the show with an impressive performance on his Roker bow, and Colin Symm, a close-season free transfer arrival from Sheffield Wednesday, also did enough to impress Argus.

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

Ha'way Back When in association with John Hogg Funeral Directors

Writing in the Echo on ex-Hibs and Arsenal star Baker, Argus commented: “He was given a heavy pounding between Curtis and Blockley, and had to fight hard for the half-chances which came his way.

“But he did fight and I think it is a safe bet that he will collect more than the nine goals which made Suggett the club’s leading scorer last season.

“Symm had a lot to offer.

“He is brave, strong and plays a thoughtful game.

“He did not have the best of luck (against Coventry), but there was enough in his play to indicate that he can do much better.

“McGiven, an 18-year-old Newcastle boy who was one of the outstanding members of the side which won the Youth Cup last season, was the happiest member of this trio of debutants, for he made his league debut an occasion to remember, both for himself and the crowd.

He will be a very useful player indeed.”

The match itself was definitely one to forget, with the 90 frustrating minutes producing only one shot at goal which forced either keeper into a save.

Disappointingly, that saw Sunderland keeper Jimmy Montgomery forced into a fine save to keep out a 25-yard drive from Dave Clements after a neat link-up with Ernie Hannigan.

Sunderland, though, created many more shooting opportunities, with Baker twice heading narrowly wide with keeper Bill Glazier well beaten.

The hosts matched Coventry’s defensive resilience, keeping Neil Martin quiet on his return to Roker Park – “he was kept under pressure and did not like it a bit”.

Argus added: “The 0-0 draw was a disappointment for the team and the supporters, yet not a surprising result in view of the extent to which City geared themselves for a defensive game and the tactics which they employed, of necessity, to make a success of it.

“The impact which Sunderland made upon the play as an attacking force was negligible.

“There were a lot of good beginnings, but these were all destroyed by the tough, uncompromising play of Curtis, Coop, Cattlin and Blockley.

“It was the sort of battle which Sunderland are not equipped to win, but they never stopped trying.

“Not good enough? Granted.

“But with this sort of effort as a starting point, improvement will surely follow.

“Everyone knows it is going to be hard – Sunderland meet the challenge of a new season with a side short of experience and proven ability in too many positions – and the ‘knockers’, having a field day in this situation and making the most of it, will be able to go on ‘knocking’ for a while yet.”

Sadly, Sunderland slipped to relegation in second-bottom spot, with just six wins all season, and only four at home.

Sunderland: Montgomery, Harvey, Ashurst, Heslop, Pitt, Mcgiven, Harris, Tueart, Baker, Symm, Hughes (Palmer 68)

Coventry City: Glazier, Coop, Cattlin, Hill, Curtis, Blockley, Hannigan, Gibson, Martin, Carr, Clements. Sub: Gould.

Att: 20,974.