Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.
COLE FIRED UP TO DENY YORKIE
ANDY COLE would love to deny pal Dwight Yorke what could be the last medal of his career.
The former strike partners won the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999 – but are now on opposite sides of the Championship title battle.
If Yorke’s Sunderland get a better result at Luton than Cole’s Birmingham manage at Preston – the Black Cats will be champions.
And Cole insisted that, despite having won virtually every trophy in the game, he was still fired up for more silverware.
“I’d love to deprive Yorkie of a medal,” said Cole. “I’m no different to anyone else. The physio said to me the other day it might be the last one you win in football, and he’s right.”
On paper, Birmingham have the tougher fixture with Preston hoping to keep their own promotion dreams alive by qualifying for the play-offs.
By contrast, Sunderland face a Luton side that has already been relegated.
But the Blues hitman said his side is fired up after confirming promotion with their dramatic 2-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Cole said: “A lot of lads who haven’t achieved anything in their career will be definitely up for it.
“Preston will be tough because they are trying to get into the play-offs but if we can end the season winning five out of five and lift the Championship trophy, it would be fantastic.”
Birmingham sealed their Premiership return despite being down to 10 men against the Owls, whose play-off aspirations died with that defeat.
Cole said Yorke was quickly in touch to wind up his mate.
“He phoned me and said ‘your lot got hammered on Saturday’ and I’m not going to lie, we did!” said the 35-year-old former Newcastle star.
“But we got the result and that’s what happens in football.”
Cole versus Yorke will not be the only duel between Old Trafford old boys on Sunday, with managers Steve Bruce and Roy Keane also looking to outdoor each other.
Cole added: “They are two very driven characters. They played for a top manager.
“Roy has just come into management and he has shown his qualities already.
“Brucie has been a manager for quite a few years. There are ups and downs in management and he has turned the corner here and got Birmingham promoted. Roy has got Sunderland promoted and he has done a great job and I’m pleased for the pair of them.
KEANE DEMANDS A FINAL FLOURISH:
ROY KEANE says his Sunderland players deserve a medal for their efforts this season and he’s determined to make sure they have every chance of doing exactly that.
Having secured promotion last Sunday, Sunderland now go to Luton Town this Sunday knowing they have an evens chance of winning the Championship title.
Leaders, Birmingham have a one-point lead at the top, and a two-goal advantage on goal-difference, but Sunderland could overtake them on the final day of the season.
And Keane believes his men will be worthy winners if they finish up as champions.
He said: “I’ll be able to enjoy it on Sunday – but only if we win. And if we manage to clinch the title, fantastic. I do believe the players deserve something to show for their efforts and it’s always nice to pick up a medal.”
Black Cats fans have had to some pretty complicated equations over the last couple of months – calculating play-off and promotion possibilities.
But the maths is pretty simple for Sunderland this weekend – if they win and Birmingham don’t the Black Cats finish top of the pile.
The other scenario is Sunderland draw and Birmingham lose, in which case the teams would be level on points and goal difference would come into it, with Birmingham, needing to lose by two clear goals to drop them below the Wearsiders.
Regardless of the numbers, Keane is thinking of ending the season on a high. And that would mean the club notching up its fifth victory in its last six games on the road.
Keane said: “We’re going down there to win, because we know that if we take maximum points then we have got a good chance of winning the Championship title. That’s my mindset.
“The way I work, there can’t be any half-measures because that doesn’t get you anywhere. It has to be full steam ahead and that means winning on Saturday.”
Keane says that such is his focus on events at Kenilworth Road this weekend that he will concentrate solely on a Sunderland win and not worry about the Birmingham result until full-time.
He said: “I haven’t even thought about keeping in touch with the Birmingham score, if I’m honest, although I’m sure we’ll find out one way or the other.
“I know they will have a difficult game against Preston but our game will be difficult too. We just have to focus on winning our game and them see where we end up.
“But even if Birmingham win and take the title, it won’t affect the fact that we want to win our last game and finish the season on a high.”