How Sunderland AFC have fared against their former managers ahead of Simon Grayson reunion

Phil Parkinson may get a welcome boost on Saturday from Simon Grayson’s Blackpool – as history shows Sunderland fare well when coming up against previous managers.

Friday, 13th December 2019, 4:30 pm
Simon Grayson returns to Sunderland this weekend
Simon Grayson returns to Sunderland this weekend

Here we look back across 60-plus years and seven Black Cats bosses at how they got on when they first faced Sunderland in charge a new club.

And the results may offer Black Cats fans a crumb of comfort as they desperately seek to see a spark from Parkinson’s desperately struggling side.

Sam Allardyce

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On February 4, 2017 – following his Stadium of Light exit and short-lived reign as England boss, Big Sam’s Crystal Palace were expected to spank Sunderland at Selhurst Park.

But they ended up taking a battering, as the visitors stormed to a 4-0 win which included two goals from, of course, Jermain Defoe.

Steve Bruce

Appointed by Hull just over six months after his November 2011 sacking by Sunderland, Bruce welcomed the Black Cats to the KC Stadium in November 2013.

But although Bruce’s new side won – courtesy of a Carlos Cuellar own goal – they somehow failed to score against opponents who played the whole of the second half with nine men following the dismissals of Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena in first-half added time.

Mick McCarthy

Sacked in March 2006 after three years at Sunderland, McCarthy replaced Glenn Hoddle at Wolves just four months later, and then faced the Black Cats at Molineux that November.

The game was given even more edge by the presence of Roy Keane – who had infamously walked out of McCarthy’s 2002 World Cup squad before the tournament – in the away dug-out.

Jemal Johnson put Wolves ahead, but Stephen Elliott’s deflected 80th-minute strike saw Sunderland claim a point.

Peter Reid

Reid became interim head coach of Leeds United five months after his seven-year reign at Sunderland - which included overseeing the transition from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light – ended in October 2002.

Having kept the Whites in the Premier League in May 2003, Reid got the Elland Road job permanently, but oversaw relegation the following season after having to sell numerous star names.

And life got no better for Reid when he welcomed Sunderland to Elland Road in September 2004, as Carl Robinson’s goal and Mart Poom’s penalty save lifted the Black Cats to fourth place in the Championship.

Denis Smith

Smith was a hero on Wearside after getting Sunderland out of the old Third Division in 1988 and to a play-off final (and ultimately promotion, thanks to Swindon’s dodgy finances) in 1990.

But after the Black Cats were relegated from the top flight the following season, their struggles early in the 1991-92 campaign saw Smith sacked on the penultimate day of 1991.

Yet, just three months later, Smith reminded Wearside of his tactical and motivational qualities by overseeing a 3-1 win for Bristol City – courtesy of a certain Andy Cole and Wayne Allison’s double - on his first managerial return to Roker Park.

Jimmy Adamson

After two years in charge at Roker Park, and despite a relegation on his CV, Ashington-born Adamson moved to Leeds in November 1978 to succeed Jock Stein.

But Adamson’s first trip back to Wearside in September 1980 was a nightmare, as two goals from Pop Robson and one apiece from Gary Rowell and Alan Brown saw Sunderland rise to sixth place in the old Division One.

Alan Brown

Brown – no relation to Sunderland’s striker of the late 70s-early 80s – enjoyed two spells as Black Cats boss across three decades.

But after his first seven-year reign ended in July 1964 when he jumped ship for Sheffield Wednesday just months after winning promotion to the old First Division, Brown received payback when his Owls visited Wearside the following April.

Len Ashurst (himself a future manager at Roker Park), Harry Hood and George Mulhall scored without reply as Sunderland maintained strong the late-season form which had lifted them clear of the relegation zone.

Less than three years later, Brown left Wednesday to re-join Sunderland.