Here’s what the Echo was reporting 10 years ago today.
JONNY: BE GOOD!
Evans: We have to prove we are worthy
JONNY EVANS says he wants Sunderland back in the Premiership next season – and it’s up to him and the rest of the squad to prove they are worthy of a place in the top flight.
The 20-year-old is unfazed by the mounting pressure in the Championship promotion charge and says Sunderland have shown already this year that they are one of the best sides in the division.
Now, they just have to keep proving that point until the end of the season.
He said: “It’s a big challenge ahead but if you can’t rise to it then you’re not worthy of playing in the Premiership. If you want to get up there to the top flight then you have to prove that you are good enough to deserve promotion.
“And once you get there you have to prove you’re good enough not just go up to come straight back down.
“If you want to raise your game enough then you will do it, and we have to make sure that we prove just how much we want promotion.”
The Black Cats’ 10-game unbeaten run since the turn of the year has put them firmly in the hunt for automatic promotion but they cannot afford to let their standards slip as the season nears its close.
Sunderland are still battling it out with the likes of Birmingham, Derby, West Brom, Preston and Wolves for an automatic promotion place and Evans says Sunderland must be ruthless.
Their next test is a trip to relegation-threatened Barnsley this Saturday but Evans says the evidence of Sunderland’s last three games – against Derby County, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City – shows the Wearsiders are capable of taking on all-comers.
He said: “If you look at our last three games, we have taken seven points out of nine and if someone had offered us that return from those matches right at the start then I think we’d have happily taken it.
“The whole league is so tight. You can’t take any games for granted. Barnsley are fighting for safety in the division and they will present just as big a challenge as those teams around us that are looking to get in the promotion places.”
Sunderland’s 10-match unbeaten run has yielded 26 points from a possible 30 but Evans says he is not even thinking about the next 10 games. He said: “We are on an unbeaten run but we don’t look at blocks of games, we just look as far as the next one. We’ve got Barnsley on Saturday and we want to win that one.
“The other teams around us are matching us stride for stride at the moment and sometimes you can find yourself looking at other teams’ games and thinking about what results you want from them.
“All we can do is concentrate on winning our games and the other results will sort themselves out.”
QUINN GETS HIS MESSAGE OVER
THE NIALL Quinn Roadshow gathered pace last night when the Sunderland chairman addressed hundreds of lapsed season-ticket holders and made the case for their immediate return.
Quinn has pledged to go out on the road to meet former season-ticket holders and beg, bully, plead and push for them to return and make SAFC a national talking point again for the strength of their support.
It is a bold yet humble strategy from the Sunderland legend – touring across the region trying to drum up former supporters.
But if last night’s show at the Rainton Meadows Arena ion Houghton-le-Spring was anything to go by, it’s a sacrifice worth making.
The arena was all glitter balls and spangly lights, the sound system pumping out rock tunes, prior to the chairman’s entrance on stage and you wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d emerged to “Niall Quinn’s Disco Pants.”
But this was a serious night, despite the many laughs that were to follow and the air of good-natured, bonhomie which marked the evening – Quinn wants the exiled season-ticket holders back and he was there to deal with any reasonable reasons they might have not to return.
“I want us to have some fun tonight, but the bottom line is we want lapsed season ticket holders to come back to us and if you’re not going to come back then you’ll probably be made to feel pretty uncomfortable about that before you leave here.
“I think we have fulfilled most of the stayaway’s requests – the things they said would have to be done to persuade them to return.
“They said they wanted a new regime and they’ve got that, they said get a good manager and they’ve got that too (eventually!), they said get good players – that’s done and they said win matches – and we’ve done that too.
“We feel as though we’re fulfilling our jobs and we want fans to do their jobs now, which is come along and enjoy supporting the side.
“I understand the cost of season tickets.
“But if we get people on a 10-month scheme it will work out much cheaper for them in spreading the cost.
“What happens over a period of time is people get used to sitting in their armchairs on Saturday and saying they’re Sunderland fans.
“But we want those people to get out of their armchairs and come back to see us a big club again.
“And, at the end of the day, I know for a fact that we as a club will win more games when we have crowds over 40,000 than we will with crowds less than that size.”
That was just some of the tough-talking Quinn did on the night, flanked by legends from the past Charlie Hurley and Jimmy Montgomery on one side and stars of the present – Toby Hysen and Nyron Nosworthy on the other.
He needn’t have worried about getting a rough ride in return.
Unlike the previous chairman, fans are turning out to praise Quinn rather than praise him.
But that’s not Quinn’s concern anyway – his concern is to return the club to the size and scale on the terraces that it enjoyed when he returned as a Sunderland player.
There was no doubting the enjoyment had by the hundreds of fans on the night, nor the enthusiasm with which they lapped up the words of their charismatic chairman.
But the acid test will lie not in the hero worship they accorded Quinn in last night’s event, but in how many of the missing thousands are inspired enough by the chairman’s words this morning to put their money where his mouth is.
Quinn said: “As this club starts to feel big again – and there’s no doubt it’s now going in the right direction – we have to fill seats.
“We have to go further than the 23,000 crowds that we started this season with.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that we have the biggest crowds in the Championship, crowds that other clubs would die for.
“But I want Sunderland to achieve its full potential and it’s a long way away from that yet in terms of the crowds we are capable of bringing in.
“I don’t intend to give up on this though.
“We will work out ways to get back because as much as this club is going in the right direction, we need you to be part of it.”
YORKE CALLS HALT TO T&T
SUNDERLAND’S promotion hopes were given a boost today with the announcement that mid-fielder Dwight Yorke has retired from international football with immediate effect.
The former Trinidad and Tobago captain, 35, has been an inspirational influence on his country’s football and he has always relished his trips back home.
But now he says he wants to dedicate his time completely to Sunderland’s 10-game end to the season.
He said: “It has been a great personal and professional honour to play for and captain Trinidad and Tobago over the years and I hope that I have contributed to the success of the team over that time.
“I believe the time is now right for me to concentrate on my career at Sunderland and hopefully win promotion to the Premiership.
“I would like to thank all my fellow team-mates from Trinidad and Tobago who have given me such support and our fantastic fans who are unique in the world.”
Yorke led the Soca Warriors to their first World Cup last year and earned 59 official caps for Trinidad and Tobago, scoring 26 goals.
But he also played over 100 matches for his country that were not recognised as international friendlies.
He retired from international football in 2001 with Falkirk midfielder Russell Latapy but returned to the team for the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Today’s announcement will be a boost for Roy Keane who had seen both Dwight Yorke and Carlos Edwards named in the T&T squad to face Chile on March 25 in Santiago.
Edwards was unlikely to have been able to make the trip anyway, after the shoulder injury he picked up against West Bromwich Albion at the weekend.
And Yorke’s decision means the 35-year-old is now free to concentrate on the games ahead for Sunderland, without the distraction of trans-atlantic travel and the demands of international duty.