Ha’way back when: Mick McCarthy replaces Howard Wilkinson as Sunderland boss

Mick McCarthy arrives at the Stadium of Light.
Mick McCarthy arrives at the Stadium of Light.
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Derek McInnes tonight decided not to become Sunderland manager, leaving the club even more red faced than the new kit!

Plenty have taken on the challenge over the years of course with most, sadly, ending with the sack.

Here, we look back at the arrival of Mick McCarthy as Sunderland boss back in March, 2003.

Howard Wilkinson had been appointed manager in October, 2002, after the sacking of Peter Reid, but oversaw an awful campaign.

His last game was a 1-0 loss at Fulham that left the Black Cats seven points off safety on just 19 points, with nine games of the Premiership season.

Sunderland had picked up just one point from the previous 10 games.

In an Echo comment, Ian Laws reflected on the club’s troubles.

He wrote: “Regardless of who is appointed to succeed Howard Wilkinson and Steve Cotterill, Sunderland Association Football Club are the laughing stock of North East football today.

“How supporters of Middlesbrough and particularly Newcastle United will be enjoying this. The wine will be flowing freely among the Milan branch of the Toon Army (he was referring to Newcastle being in Italy for a Champions League clash).

“Sunderland have lurched from one calamity to the next in the last two years and no one will be redder in the face about it all, or more hurt by it all, than chairman Bob Murray.

“Football is an unforgiving world in which people have long memories. So it was no surprise when, after he sacked Peter Reid, people reminded the chairman of the comments he made a few months earlier when he said he would leave the club the day Reid did. Reid went, he stayed.

“Sunderland fans are hoping the club has hit rock bottom and the only way is up. It might have to be from the First Division, because only a miracle will keep the club in the Premiership this season.”

The team looked destined for relegation and McCarthy - who had resigned as Republic of Ireland boss the previous November - could not stop the slide.

On his arrival, he admitted it was a tough ask.

“Mathematically it is still possible and while it is, I have to believe that we can do it.I have had a few texts from people who have suggested I am sailing close to the wind with this challenge, but I still believe it is doable.”

McCarthy’s first game was a 2-0 defeat at home to Sam Allardyce’s Bolton.

This was the Sunderland team: Thomas Sorensen, Stephen Wright (Julio Arca 46), George McCartney, Darren Williams, Joachim Bjorklund, Talal El Karkouri, Michael Proctor (Kevin Kyle 80), Sean Thornton, Tore Andre Flo (Marcus Stewart 66), Kevin Phillips, Michael Gray. Subs not used: Mart Poom, Phil Babb.

McCarthy’s nine games brought the grand total of two Sunderland goals and no points, but he largely escaped criticism given the team and desperate morale he inherited.

The following season, in Nationwide Division One, McCarthy took Sunderland to the promotion play-offs, where they lost in a penalty shoot-out to Crystal Palace.

The 2004–05 season saw McCarthy lead the Black Cats to the Coca-Cola Championship title after amassing 94 points.

Life in the Premiership was much tougher for McCarthy though, and he was sacked on March 6, 2006, with Sunderland 16 points from safety with only 10 games remaining.

Kevin Ball saw the season out as Sunderland finished bottom with just 15 points.