Football: Reid responds to the last of the Roker roar

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The Independent Online
Sunderland 3 Everton 0

When the famous roar was already a fading echo, and Roker Park had passed into history, Peter Reid was reminded that he had been this way before.

In his programme notes, the Sunderland manager recalled playing at Roker "as a teenager in front of more than 60,000 fans." Such was the roar in the days before the giant Roker End was cut down to modest size, it must have seemed to the young Bolton Wanderer that more than 51,983 were packed in when Tony Towers and Pop Robson scored the goals which secured promotion for Sunderland on Easter Monday in 1976.

But relegation has become as synonymous with Sunderland as Roker itself, and Reid's recall of the most recent demotion was more accurate. He was manager of Manchester City that day in the 1990-91 season, when two goals by his record Sunderland signing, Niall Quinn, and one by David White consigned the Wearsiders to second-class football with a 3-2 defeat at Maine Road.

"I knew someone would bring that up," Reid said on Saturday after a victory which earned his side a fighting chance of beating the drop. "I couldn't believe the number of Sunderland fans at Maine Road that day. Their support was a big influence on me taking the job here. They deserve to see Premiership football."

Some 15,000 red and whites invaded Moss Side for that tearful denouement, and 12,000 are expected at Selhurst Park next Sunday. In Reid's estimation, they will be celebrating survival when the turnstiles open a week tomorrow for the official Roker farewell match against Liverpool. "I'm almost convinced," he said.

Rokerites, eternal pessimists , are not so sure. Sunderland could lose to Wimbledon and stay up but could win and still go down. Yet another last-day let-down would not be entirely unexpected.

If the Wearmouth Stadium does play host to Bury and Stockport after being christened by Ajax on 30 July, the pounds 7m Reid has left unspent from his pounds 10m kitty will have been a false economy. Yet if Manchester United and Newcastle appear on the fixture list, the pounds 275,000 Reid invested in Lionel Perez and Chris Waddle will have paid rich dividends.

Perez was again Sunderland's saviour on Saturday, when Everton threatened to exploit their nervous start, while Waddle was the match-winner with the scoring free-kick and the cross for Allan Johnston's headed goal after Paul Stewart's first-half penalty.

Stewart informed Reid on Saturday night that he will not serve the remaining year on his contract because his wife and children do not want to uproot from their Blackpool home.

Waddle's contract terminates when the final whistle blows on Sunday. But in the month he has spent with the club he once supported, the veteran entertainer has shown that, at 36, he still has much to offer the Premiership.

Goals: Stewart pen (35) 1-0; Waddle (57) 2-0; Johnston (68) 3- 0.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Perez; Hall (Johnston, 45), Ord, Howey, Gray; Williams, Bracewell, K Ball, Waddle; Stewart, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Rae, Smith, Kelly, Woods (gk).

Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Dunne, Phelan (Hills, 87); Stuart (M Ball, 71), Thomsen, Speed, Barmby; Branch, Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Hottiger, O'Connor, Gerrard (gk).

Referee: K Burge (Tonypandy).

Bookings: Everton Ferguson, Speed.

Man of the match: Waddle. Attendance: 22,108.