We hope that Sunderland supporters raised a glass to Marton Fülöp last week, who was perhaps a more significant figure in the club’s recent past than is generally realised.
Gone now at the horribly young age of 32, I recall the fine game he had in the 2-1 win against Newcastle in October 2008, then again in a 1-1 draw the following February at whatever the Sports Direct Arena was called in those days.
No one knew at the time, but these results would, in the end, keep Sunderland in the Premier League while relegating their opponents.
In May of the same season, Newcastle beat Middlesbrough in what turned out to be their only win under the managerial genius of Alan Shearer. Both of those teams were relegated, but the reaction of a slavering media to Shearer’s solitary victory – against a team that would finish second bottom – is worth remembering.
Ultimately, that result was meaningless, yet the papers reacted as though Shearer had walked on Mars, or discovered DNA.
For example, Louise Taylor in the Guardian gushed that it was, ahem: “An important watershed in Shearer’s career, the moment when he convinced the cynics that he really might cut it in the dug-out.”
Two days earlier, Sunderland played a mostly forgettable, yet crucial goalless draw at Bolton, thanks largely to a quite magnificent last-minute save by Marton to keep out a Gary Cahill header.
The absurd hyperbole used to describe Newcastle’s humdrum win over hopeless opposition inspired the following description of that save in this column.
We reckoned: “Marton Fülöp’s fabulous late save at Bolton was a defining moment in the entire history of football. It could lead to governments being toppled, the economy being saved and a bloodless revolution throughout Western society.”
Detractors at the time dismissed our appraisal as “silly.” They had a point.
But re-printing that frivolous paragraph from 2009 is the least – as well as the most – we can do now by way of a tribute to a fine goalkeeper who served Sunderland well.
Thank you ,Marton Fülöp.