As turning points go, the appointment of Peter Reid as Sunderland manager in March 1995 signalled pretty much a full circle — and then some.
Sunderland were languishing in the lower reaches of Division One when the club reawakened the managerial career of the tough-as-nails Scouser who had been away from the front-line for 19 months since being dismissed by trigger-happy Manchester City after only a handful of games in the 1993-94 campaign.
Reid saved the Sunderland ship from sinking and kept it afloat to such an extent that promotion to the Premiership was achieved the following season. It was to be a short-lived mingle with the elite, the Wearsiders were relegated on the final day of the season at Wimbledon having notched up the reliable safety benchmark of 40 points.
All the more galling for the club board was the fact that their newly built arena, the Stadium of Light, would not have top-flight football to witness its arrival. The new stadium was not the only key arrival in the pre-season of 1997-98.
Sunderland’s undoing in the Premiership was a failure to score goals, enter Kevin Phillips for a nominal fee from Watford. In his first season, Phillips shattered the post-war club scoring record with 35 goals — surpassing the record of one Brian Clough. However, a slow start to the campaign saw Reid’s men end up in the play-offs and lose a heartbreaking final to Charlton on penalties following a thrilling encounter, which finished 4-4.
They made no mistake next time around, romping to the championship with a record 105 points. Lack of goals was not going to be an issue on return to the Premiership, Phillips weighed in with 30 to claim the Golden Boot (90 goals in all competitions in three seasons) and the team finished a creditable seventh, their highest placing in the top flight for 55 years.
Reid strengthened for the current campaign to the tune of £11m, Don Hutchison, the Argentine Julio Arca, and later on Emerson Thome being the major outlays. After a sticky patch early in the season, Sunderland are unbeaten since a 3-0 defeat at Manchester United in early September.
Last season’s meeting at White Hart Lane ended in a 3-1 win for Spurs and we have won 16 of 40 matches between the two teams at home with 12 draws. A balance of power that needs upholding.