Lee Clark was an influential member of Sunderland’s team in the first two seasons at the Stadium of Light.
But the former Newcastle United midfielder, signed in the summer of 1997, left under a cloud before the promotion success of the 105-point 1998-99 First Division title-winning season could be savoured, departing before the Black Cats’ second Premiership adventure began.
He was spotted at Wembley, supporting Newcastle in the FA Cup final, wearing a derogatory T-shirt – and his time on Wearside was over. He has offered regret for the action since.
Now, in his explosive new autobiography Black or White, no Grey areas, ghost-written by Will Scott, Clark – now the manager of Kilmarnock – reflects on his times at Newcastle, Sunderland and Fulham.
Here, in the latest extract from his memories, Clark thanks Sunderland fans, admits it was probably a mistake signing for the club and talks about THAT t-shirt.
Clark writes: "We’d only lost twice in the league by the time Leicester knocked us out of the League Cup semi- finals on aggregate.
"Promotion and the Premier League was almost a certainty and I was delighted to be playing a part in Sunderland’s success.
"Nonetheless, it slowly began to dawn on me that Newcastle would be waiting for me in the top flight and this was a big dilemma.
"After the second leg of the League Cup semi-final I went to see the gaffer in his office.
"He was there with Andy Gray, although the Sky Sports reporter was there in a social rather than a professional capacity.
"They went back a long way and played together at Everton in the mid 1980s.
"The boss asked what I wanted.
"At first I was reluctant to say it front of Andy.
"But Reidy just told me to spit it out, so I told him I wanted to move on.
"Said I’d had two great years at the club but I can’t play for Sunderland in the Premier League against Newcastle. Reidy just turned around and screamed "get out of my office! You’re going nowhere!"
"Reidy thought it was the disappointment of getting knocked out of the League Cup after going so close.
"After all, I was a player who wore a heart on his sleeve.
"I couldn’t hide emotions and disappointment.
"We had a proper sit down and talk about it later on.
"We’d just about sealed our return to the top flight around that time despite having about two months of the season left.
"I gave my reasons to him again but he still wasn’t having it.
Reidy said "we’re going to the Premier League next season and I’m not letting my best player leave.
"You’re coming with me."
"We never spoke about it again after that and I played and helped secure the title, scoring at Barnsley in a 3-1 victory.
"Even though my time at the Stadium of Light ended on a sour note, I’d like to think Sunderland supporters appreciated I was an influential player in a very good team for the two years I was on Wearside.
"Sunderland fans knew where my heart lay but were happy as long as I did the business for them on the pitch.
"And they knew I always did that.
"In hindsight, because of my background, it was probably a mistake signing for Sunderland.
"That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my two seasons on Wearside, I had two of the best years of my life.
"But everyone knows I'm Newcastle through and through and I couldn't give 100 per cent for Sunderland against the club I love.
"And if I couldn't do that I'd have been cheating on Reid, his number two Bobby Saxton, the fans and all my team-mates.
"It was best that I went and Reidy knew how I felt before what happened at Wembley with t-shirtgate.
"In the past, when I said I couldn’t play for the Black Cats against the Magpies I was accused of being unprofessional.
"I don’t think it was.
"I was just being honest.
"It was how I felt at the time and I still feel the same now.
"Ask any diehard Newcastle fan or Sunderland supporter and they will understand.
"I know for a fact they will empathise with me.
"Playing for Fulham against Newcastle?
"That was never a problem.
"That was a very different situation.
"To understand you have to know about the feeling between the two North-East clubs.
"People talk about the Old Firm game; the Merseyside and Manchester derbies; the north London contests and other local clashes. I’m sure they are passionate, feisty affairs with no quarter drawn.
"But the Tyne and Wear derby is something else.
"There is pure hatred, poison and venom.
"It makes seemingly rational people punch horses for God’s sake.
"I wish that wasn’t the case but it is."
* Black or White, no Grey Areas, the autobiography of Lee Clark, is ghost-written by Will Scott and published by Mojo Risin’ Publishing.