IT HAS not been a good week for Gary Owers after he was dismissed as assistant manager at League Two Aldershot.
But Sunday’s derby at least provides memories of happier times for the former Sunderland midfielder as he recalls his part in the 1990 play-off triumph over the Magpies.
Man of the match Owers spoke with the Echo’s Chris Young about that iconic victory at St James’s Park.
AFTER 90 gruelling minutes, the last thing Gary Owers needed was to sprint 70 yards to avoid the baying mob.
But the Birtley-born player had little option if he was to escape St James’s Park in tact as the Magpies faithful struggled to live with the taunts coming from their euphoric opposite numbers in the Leazes End.
The pitch had already been swamped by Newcastle supporters following Marco Gabbiadini’s crucial second goal which effectively sealed Sunderland’s passage to Wembley and it was only a matter of time before they invaded again.
Owers, crippled by cramp after a lung-busting display, found himself fretting over how he would get to safety from the no-man’s land of the right wing to the tunnel on the opposite side of the pitch.
Fortunately, referee George Courtney had a plan and Owers was able to limp his way to safety – although not all his team-mates were quite so fortunate.
“We were a little bit concerned that they would try to get it abandoned,” said Owers, now 42.
“But the referee George Courtney was a very experienced referee and he handled the situation immaculately.
“He had hold of the ball and was as cool as a cucumber. He said not to worry because we would finish the game even if it took until 2am when everyone had gone home.
“Unfortunately for me, I had done quite a lot of running and I had picked up cramp during the last five minutes or so.
“I was on the opposite side to the tunnel so I was starting to get a bit worried.
“When we re-started, the referee said he would play five minutes but for everyone’s safety, he would give us a signal when there was only 30 seconds to play.
“He was the first one off and we all raced after him trying to get to safety.
“On the video, you can see Gary Bennett and John McPhail struggling to get off and getting a few clips round the ear.
“The only disappointment was that we didn’t get the chance to celebrate properly with our fans because of the invasion.
“But we got on the bus and ended up at Fino’s until the early hours. It was a really special night.
“I always consider myself lucky to play in that game.”
READ the full feature in Thursday’s Echo