Heading north

Last updated : 17 December 2004 By Tony Scholes
Stephen Elliott
It’s just over a year since our only previous visit to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light when we came home with a point from a 1-1 draw, but things have got somewhat better for the Mackems since then.

They went on to reach the semi-final of the FA Cup, going out as we did to Millwall, and also made it to the play offs where they missed out to Crystal Palace. A year ago they were a long way behind the leaders, they were a club still in the recovery stage from that run of seventeen successive league defeats that all but created a league record.

Manager Mick McCarthy, who came in replace the Howard Wilkinson & Steve Cotterill team, set about strengthening his squad in the summer and was able to spend some money to bring in a number of new faces.

The two highest transfer fees he paid were from players in the bottom division. Mansfield’s sought after winger Liam Lawrence made his way to Sunderland for £175,000 along with midfielder Dean Whitehead from Oxford who cost £150,000.

Young KKMC striker Stephen Elliott cost a further £125,000 and he has already notched eight league goals for his new club.

Burnley fans often have problems signing players from Blackburn but that has never applied with players moving between the two clubs in the north east. Stephen Caldwell became the latest when he signed from Newcastle during the summer at the end of his contract.

The only other pre-season signing was Manchester United defender Mark Lynch who has featured in around half of the games so far. Since the big kick off McCarthy has been able to further add to his squad.

Defender Neil Collins cost £25,000 from Dumbarton, Michael Bridges returned to his first club on a free transfer from Bolton, Chester defender Danny Collins cost £140,000 and most recently they signed Andy Welsh form Stockport for £15,000 (presumably after offering £200,000).

To add to that Carl Robinson, who was on loan last season from Portsmouth, made his move permanent in the summer. They have had a couple of loan players in Simon Johnson from Leeds and Birmingham’s Darren Carter but both players returned to their clubs.

McCarthy has reduced the wage bill from £34 million per year to £10 million per year with all these changes since he arrived at Sunderland. Not bad given that ours is around £3 million.

It has been a good first half of the season for them and along with the Clarets they are currently one of the form teams with four wins in the last five games. The only defeat came as we were losing at Plymouth when they went down 2-0 to West Ham at home.

Caldwell was sent off in that game but the decision was a bad one from Preston referee Graham Salisbury and it has since been rescinded.

They made a poor start to the season and were close to the bottom at the end of August. Things have changed though and since the beginning of September they have collected more points than any other club, in fact five more than any other club.

That has left them just three points behind Ipswich in second place and a further point behind leaders Wigan.

Click HERE to see all Sunderland’s results this season.

One player ruled out of the Sunderland side is defender Stephen Caldwell. After seeing his suspension rescinded he has picked up a hamstring injury in training and has been ruled out. Neil Collins is expected to replace him.

There’s a decision for McCarthy with former KKMC player Jeff Whitley returning from injury. He might have expected to go straight back into the side but Dean Whitehead’s form could well mean him returning via the bench.

Forward Kevin Kyle is ruled out with a long term injury and Thomas Myhre will continue in goal for the injured Mart Poom. Chris Brown meanwhile is expected to continue up front with Marcus Stewart and Michael Bridges joining Whitley amongst the subs.

Sunderland’s probably team is: Thomas Myhre, Stephen Wright, Gary Breen, Neil Collins, George McCartney, Liam Lawrence, Dean Whitehead, Carl Robinson, Julio Arca, Chris Brown, Stephen Elliott. Subs: Ben Alnwick, Mark Lynch, Jeff Whitley, Michael Bridges, Marcus Stewart.

There’s good news and bad news for Burnley boss Steve Cotterill. John McGreal is back from suspension but Frank Sinclair is now ruled out with a two match ban. Richard Chaplow is back in full training but Tony Grant is struggling with a hamstring injury.

So it could be two in and two out and that could be it with Graham Branch still struggling with a calf injury.

Robbie Blake thought, despite a week of ridiculous rumours, is still a Claret and the division’s best player will line up in our Claret & Blue shirt tomorrow.
I suspect Grant will be fit enough to play and Chappy will be on the bench, that would leave our side as,

Brian Jensen, Michael Duff, Gary Cahill, John McGreal, Mo Camara, Lee Roche, James O’Connor, Tony Grant, Micah Hyde, Ian Moore, Robbie Blake. Subs: Paul Scott, Joel Pilkington, Amadou Sanokho, Richard Chaplow, Matt O’Neill.

It was an excellent game there last season played on a cold and windy day in November. Both sides played well and the score was kept down but top goalkeeping at either end from Brian Jensen and Mart Poom.

We did go a goal behind when Kevin Kyle scored but Ian Moore scored from a ball played in from the right to earn the point.

The teams below show the changes at both clubs – just two of last season’s Sunderland team are expected to start tomorrow although there are five from the Burnley side who will probably be in the first eleven. The teams were,

Sunderland: Mart Poom, Darren Williams, George McCartney, Joachim Bjorklund, Julio Arca, Alan Quinn (Paul Thirlwell 76), Jeff Whitley, Colin Healy, Stewart Downing, Michael Proctor (Marcus Stewart 76), Kevin Kyle (Tommy Smith 84). Subs not used: Stephen Wright, Michael Ingham.

Burnley: Brian Jensen, Dean West (Lee Roche 73), David May, Mark McGregor, Mo Camara, Glen Little, Richard Chaplow, Tony Grant, Luke Chadwick (Paul Weller 67), Robbie Blake, Ian Moore. Subs not used: Joel Pilkington, Matt O’Neill.

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I Moore






Click HERE to see all our results against Sunderland. the first of these was a 3-2 win in the north east in September 1890 and was Sunderland's first ever league game.