SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Roy Keane hailed for Championship success

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.

ROY KEANE has made Sunderland the new United, says Ross Wallace.

The Scottish winger reckons the Black Cats’ Championship was a victory for the unity Keane has brought to the club.

Wallace fired one of his side’s goals in a 5-0 demolition of Luton Town yesterday, a victory that gave Keane his first silverware as a manager. Though the Irishman stood back from yesterday’s celebrations to allow his players to take fan’s acclaim, Wallace is in no doubt about who has been the inspiration behind Sunderland’s success.

Keane’s men went to Kenilworth Road yesterday knowing promotion was already secured and needing Birmingham to slip-up at Preston for the Wearsiders to finish top.

Wallace said: “The gaffer stressed to us that we hadn’t gone done there just to party; we were there to win the game.

“He’s brought this amazing professionalism to the club and to the squad.

“You could see that in the first five minutes. We were winning the tackles, playing fast football and we weren’t just coasting because we knew were already promoted.

“It shows the determination we’ve got the club now and it’s driven by the manager.

“The changing room was buzzing and to do it for the fans who have come all the way down is fantastic. Everyone has played their part.

“The gaffer has chopped and changed it and while there are players like myself who would have liked to have started more games, the fact is that all us have played a part and you can feel proud of it.

“Everyone who has come in has done well and contributed.”

Wallace netted a low drive less than a minute after replacing the injured Carlos Edwards.

He added: “We were three up and I thought, ‘why not have a pop?’ Luckily for me it went in the bottom corner of and it was a brilliant feeling.

“To come down here and clinch the title on the last day of the season feels amazing. We’re all buzzing and already can’t wait for next season.”

The Football League refused to budge on its policy of only presenting the trophy at the winners’ home ground, so it will be handed over at the Stadium of Light tonight.

Wallace said: “It’s shocking that we’ve not had the trophy to celebrate with. Why not get it down there in a helicopter or whatever?

“I can’t wait to get my hands on it tonight.”

DEAN: NO FALSE DAWN THIS TIME

VICTORIOUS Sunderland captain Dean Whitehead is already looking ahead to next season.

He went through all of the disappointments with the Black Cats last term as they crashed out of the top flight with only 15 points and is eager to erase the with a positive return to the Premiership.

The skipper led his side with authority as the Championship title was clinched with a 5-0 win at Luton Town yesterday.

It’s the second time in his three seasons at the club that Whitehead has finished with a Championship winners’ medal and his is determined this one does not end up a false dawn.

Whitehead said: “This season has gone now. We’ve done what we wanted to do.

“We’ve proved that we were the best team in the Championship and now we want to kick-on in the Premiership.

“It will be great to go to Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium. We want to go there, enjoy it and make sure we play well.

“We’ve got better players this time and we’ve got a manager who will be able to invest in the team, so we’ve got a good chance.”

Sunderland took command at Luton from the very first kick, rushing into a 2-0 lead inside six minutes thanks to goals from Anthony Stokes and Daryl Murphy, who went on to score the third just after half-time with subs Ross Wallace and Dave Connolly completing the rout.

Whitehead said: “To lead a big club like this back to where it belongs is a great feeling.

“We’ve made it very easy for ourselves by starting really well.

“Luton didn’t know what hit them in the first five minutes. We got the better of them with good, quick forward play.”

Whitehead should have got himself a goal, but it didn’t matter in the grand scheme as Birmingham – who started the day as leaders – went 1-0 at Preston.

News of Preston’s goal quickly poured onto the pitch by way of cheers from the Sunderland fans, about 1,800 of whom were in the official away end with many more dotted around home sections of Kenilworth Road.

I don’t think there was any way we could have avoided the Preston result,” said Whitehead.

“The Sunderland fans in the corner started jumping about and cheering so we guessed that Preston must have scored – but of course we didn’t know for sure!

“We did our part of the job by winning our game but it was nice that Preston did us a favour.”

The Football League stuck by its policy of refusing to present the trophy at an away ground. It will be handed over at the Stadium of Light tonight.

Whitehead added: “It was very disappointing not to pick up the trophy on the pitch in front of the fans.

“But it will be nice to get my hands on it tonight and I’m sure all the lads will enjoy it.

“The Football League needs to address that situation.

“We’ve worked hard all season to win the league and then, when we’ve achieved it on the last day of the season, we haven’t been awarded the trophy.”

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES

But Keane will soon be in Premier mode.

ROY Keane wants to give Sunderland fans a team to be proud of in the Premiership next season.

But, for the moment, he wants them just to relax and enjoy the triumph of finishing a fascinating campaign winning the Championship title on the last day of the campaign.

Within minutes of the final whistle at Kenilworth Road yesterday, Keane was being inundated with questions about his transfer targets and his Premiership aspirations.

But while Keane was the first to admit he didn’t want to go up to the top flight just to make up the numbers, he said that planning for the Premiership should not be top of the agenda over the next few days.

“It’s going to be very hard in the top flight,” he said.

“And I’m not predicting that we’re going to win it!

“But I’m hoping that we can really add something to the Premiership next season.

“I think we can add good football.

“And I think we can add big crowds – ours have been passionate all season and followed us around in great numbers and I think, as a club, we’re going to add colour and passion to the top flight, as well as good football.

“The simple fact is that you have to set your standards high – there’s no point in going up there just trying to survive.

“We will look to add one or two players to the squad over the summer and we’ve got some very good lads here already, so I think we’ll have a chance.”

Right now though, the Irishman just wants to reflect on a job well done by everyone at the club – many of whom have not or will not make the journey onwards in the Premiership in the months ahead.

He said: “There’s a massive challenge ahead in the league above us, but we will look at that next week.

“Now is the time to enjoy what has been achieved – it’s important we take a few days now to rest and relax and enjoy what we’ve done.

“The players have been great and I’m absolutely delighted with their efforts.

“We brought 20 players down to Luton and we had four who didn’t even get stripped.

“That was four players who made a massive contribution to our success but they still got involved in the celebrations and rightly so because they played their part.

“I would also praise platers who haven’t played that many games, like Stan Varga and Kenny Cunningham, but who also plated their part.

“And we shouldn’t forget players who are no longer at the club but who also contributed, like Liam Lawrence and Steve Caldwell, lads who have now left the club.”

KEANE HITS OUT AT TROPHY FARCE

SUNDERLAND will be presented with the Championship trophy at 7pm tonight at the Stadium of Light, in the wake of what Roy Keane termed a “PR disaster” in not having over the silverware to the league champions at Luton yesterday.

A “thank you” event has been organised by the club at the stadium this evening to show its appreciation for the players who earned Sunderland promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt.

And the Football League has decided to use that function to officially present the famous trophy to the club.

 Andy Knee, Football League Championship director, will be on Wearside to make the presentation.

But be that as it may, Keane was adamant that officials missed a trick in not capitalising on the euphoria sweeping around Sunderland fans at Kenilworth Road yesterday.

And he also felt that the league’s controversial decision had robbed Sunderland Football Club of a moment to savour – the handing over of the silverware the club had worked so hard to gain over the last few months.

He said: “For players not to receive the trophy on the day was a PR disaster for the Football League or Coco-Cola, or whoever was running that side of things.

“I think it’s a disgrace.

“Even it if had been Birmingham City and not us who had won the title, I would still have been in support of the trophy being delivered to them on the day.

“For teams to go through the efforts they go through to win something and with fans making the long journey they have to support us while paying very good money to see their team – for the team then not to get the trophy after the match was nothing short of a PR disaster.

“I understand that they have mentioned the word ‘safety’ as the reason for their decision.

“But heavens above, that wouldn’t have been a problem.

“Luton have security, the police have done a very good job and it wouldn’t have been an issue.

“I have been lucky enough to receive trophies at other grounds over the years and there hasn’t been a spot of bother.

“So I honestly can’t get my head around it.

“Why wouldn’t they present the Championship trophy on the final day of the season to the Championship champions?”