Sunderland’s highs and lows of the last decade in the top flight

Jermain Defoe celebrates his volley against Newcastle United at Stadium of Light back in April 2015.
Jermain Defoe celebrates his volley against Newcastle United at Stadium of Light back in April 2015.
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Sunderland’s 10-year stint at the top table is over, with the club having to rebuild in the Championship come August.

We take a look back at the highs and lows of Sunderland’s decade-long stay in the Premier League as the club prepares for life in the second tier.

2007/08

THE HIGH

BIRMINGHAM CITY (A)

August 15

Two games back in the big time, two late goals. After Chopra’s late strike stunned Spurs, Stern John turned home at the back post against Birmingham, the travelling support sent into delirium.

Four points set the Black Cats on their way and in truth they always looked like surviving. Late goals were a feature of an often exhilarating season.

THE LOW

EVERTON (A) November 24

By his own admission, Roy Keane was naive on this day. Dwight Yorke famously ran over to the touchline to tell his manager the midfield was being overrun.

“Run more then”, was Keane’s response. Sunderland lost 7-1.

2008/09

THE HIGH

NEWCASTLE UNITED (H) October 25

No matter how many times you watch the replay, you still don’t truly expect Richardson to go for Shay Given’s near post.

A stunning strike to end years of home derby heartache. It wasn’t clear then that this would be the high watermark of Roy Keane’s reign, all downhill from here on in.

This was a magnificent and quite appropriate hurrah to the heady journey that was his tenure.

The season would end happily, two close rivals relegated on the final day as Sbragia and Quinn shed a tear of joy on TV.

THE LOW

BOLTON WANDERERS (H) November 29

A wretched performance in what was Keane’s 100th in charge of the Black Cats. Johan Elmander scored twice as Sunderland were hammered 4-1.

Throughout this Premier League spell Sunderland have been all too easy to beat at home, too many of these heavy and dispiriting defeats on Wearside.

2009/10

THE HIGH

LIVERPOOL (H) October 17

The game that is remembered mostly for a comical beach ball goal, but what is often forgotten is how dominant, disciplined and impressive the Black Cats were here, well worthy of their win.

There has perhaps been no finer individual performance in his era than Lorik Cana after being pushed into an unfamiliar CB role. He never hit those dizzying heights again.

Jordan Henderson’s emergence as another high.

THE LOW

Chelsea (A) January 11

The Black Cats would correct this 7-2 drubbing in spectacular fashion in the next season, Zenden and Gyan dancing in the corner, Welbeck burning past Ashley Cole in stoppage time two enduring images of how close Sunderland were to something very good under Bruce. This, however, was a day to forget.

2010/11

THE HIGH

Blackburn Rovers (H)

January 1

In their previous home game Bent, Gyan and Welbeck played together and Sunderland were superb, inexplicably beaten 2-0 by Blackpool in one of the strangest results in one of the most one-sided games.

They came good next time out, all three of this exciting trident on the scoresheet in an excellent 3-0 win.

Pace, flair, clinical finishing, with these three the Black Cats had it all.

THE LOW

BENT LEAVES January 18

The major result of this season was a shocking derby drubbing, from which Bruce arguably never really recovered. A January deal was also a pivotal point for the manager.

England aspirations, financial incentive, disappointment at Gyan and Welbeck’s prominence, whatever the reason, Bent’s departure was a symbolic moment.

A player who finally found a home where he was appreciated and his strengths talked up over his weaknesses, leaving for Villa was the start of a downturn for both club and player, even if the fee looks exorbitant given what happened next.

2011/12

THE HIGH

MANCHESTER CITY (H) January 1

Sunderland holding out seemed most improbable. Under incredible pressure, you were relieved to see them carrying the ball away from goal.

What then unfolded remains scarcely credible, Sessegnon surging clear, spotting Ji, of all people, to score the most dramatic winner in recent times.

The high point of a spell at the start of O’Neill’s reign where anything seemed possible.

THE LOW

WIGAN ATHLETIC (H)

November 26

The atmosphere was toxic, anger rarely spilling out as ferociously as it did here, Franco di Santo’s late winner turning fans on Steve Bruce in the most dramatic fashion.

2012/13

THE HIGH

NEWCASTLE UNITED (A) April 14

Two wonder strikes that sent the Italian down the touchline on his knees, the away fans in the Gods scarcely able to comprehend what was unfolding before them.

It could hardly have been more surreal, but David Vaughan firing into the top corner on the half volley was the perfect end to a stunning day.

ASTON VILLA (A)

April 2013

Di Canio’s first two wins were stunning but it did not take long for the cracks to emerge.

A 6-1 defeat in which Benteke was rampant and Sunderland atrocious set alarm bells ringing for what was coming at the start of the next campaign.

2013/14

THE HIGH

WEMBLEY March 2

A performance to be proud of, even in defeat. A day that showcased the very best of Sunderland, on and off the field.

Performances dipped in the aftermath but the spirit was revived for the greatest escape of them all.

THE LOW

WEST BROM (A)

September 21

The wreckage of this summer has arguably still never been truly correct, the transfer business almost as disastrous as the mood in the early games as Di Canio’s tenure unravelled spectacularly.

It was all over in a flash, Di Canio urging the away fans to keep their chin up before disappearing down the tunnel for the last time.

2014/15

THE HIGH

NEWCASTLE UNITED (H) April 5

A volley that led to tears on the field, and the making of a Sunderland legend. A goal to last the ages.

THE LOW

Adam Johnson arrested

A criminal case that shamed Sunderland, and continues to cast a long shadow.

His subsequent return before conviction led to a very public inquest with Margaret Byrne leaving her post as Chief Executive.

2015/16

THE HIGH

CHELSEA (H) May 7

One of the finest afternoons in the history of the Stadium of Light.

A stunning volley from Wahbi Khazri, a stirring comeback and a remarkable result.

Newcastle’s shock defeat to Aston Villa the same afternoon only heightened the delirium and jubilation.

THE LOW

DECEMBER

It seems unthinkable now but for a while it genuinely seemed as if Big Sam’s magic would not work after all.

Sunderland lost all five games in an admittedly challenging month of fixtures, leading Allardyce to respond with a curt one word response, that can’t be repeated here when asked how he had found it.

2016/17

THE HIGH

HULL CITY (H)

November 19

The day that Sunderland welcomed the King home and the team delivered a performance worthy of his presence.

The lights going out added another layer of drama to a superb afternoon when just for a moment, it looked like things might be better after all.

SOUTHAMPTON (H)

February 11

It was the day that summed up a season, highlighting why this would be the year when Sunderland finally faced the drop.

A promising start, 20 minutes of encouraging football, before a capitulation, a complete loss of shape and intent.

A day that underlined that Sunderland were simply not good enough.