Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.
Cats can look forward to better times, insists Stephen
SUNDERLAND go into the Premiership looking forward to better days rather than back at past failures, insists Stephen Wright.
Wright went through the trials and tribulations of two disastrous relegations from the top flight in 2003 and last season, campaigns that reaped only 19 and 15 points respectively.
His appearance in the Black Cats’ title-winning last game of the season at Luton typified the reversal of the club’s fortunes under Roy Keane.
The defender’s last appearance had been at the club’s darkest hour of the season – when the Championship’s bottom club was booted out of the Carling Cup by Bury, who were then bottom of the whole Football League.
But that was also the night that stand-in boss Niall Quinn announced that he was close to appointing a new manager – and what a difference in the mood for Wright and everyone between Bury’s Gigg Lane in August and Luton’s Kenilworth Road at the weekend.
The former Liverpool defender said: “At Bury, I could never have imagined we would go on to win the title.
“We were bottom of the league and had just been knocked out of the cup by the side that was bottom of Division Two.
“But even in the first four games, we never played badly. Things just went against us.
“Once the gaffer came in, he gave us a massive boost.
“Since we were last in the Premiership, the main changes have come in things that are out of the players’ hands.
“Quinny coming in to take over the club with his backers has made a huge difference because they have brought in the money that was needed.
“The gaffer has also made a big impact – he is respected all over the world for his achievements.
“A lot has happened since we were in the Premiership last season and to get away from all that can only be a good thing. I’ve always said we can’t look back, we have to look forward.”
Few were more miserable than Wright after that depressing night at Bury – a game that saw him suffer ankle damage that subsequently needed surgery.
He ended up a peripheral figure as Sunderland were revived under Keane – Dean Whitehead filling in at right back for a spell before Danny Simpson was recruited on loan from Manchester United.
But he came back for the stunning finale at Luton.
Wright said: “The gaffer told me on Saturday that I was playing and told me it wasn’t a sympathy vote – I liked that from him.
“He picked me and I thought I did alright. I was tired from about 75 minutes onwards but that is only to be expected because I hadn’t played for a long time.”
To say that Wright had had a torrid two years is a huge understatement. The game at Luton was only his fifth league appearance in two seasons
The 27-year-old added: “It has been difficult but I’m not one to dwell on it.
“I was fit from around the middle of January but since then the lads have been on a superb run – I think it was 17 games unbeaten before we lost at Colchester – and I couldn’t go in to see the gaffer and tell him I wanted to play when the lads were performing so well and winning games.
“I had to sit tight, work hard and wait for a chance.
“I just came in, worked hard, kept my head down and the gaffer saw that.
“A lot of players have left this season and I was sorry to see them go because they were friends. But the manger knows what he wants here, and the type of players he wants at the club.”