They presented the Championship trophy on Wearside yesterday. While Durham's cricketers were getting their hands on the County Championship prize downstream at the Riverside ground in Chester-le-Street, at the Sunderland end of the Wear Steve Bruce's footballers were striving to show some much-needed defensive mettle, if not quite a little silverware-contending potential.
It will be some while yet before there is any credible prospect of the precious metal of the Premier League trophy being hoisted by the banks of the Wear. Not since 18 April 1936 has the first prize in English football been raised in celebration in these parts. It was secured with a 7-2 win at Birmingham and presented after a 4-3 win against Huddersfield at Roker Park.
Those were the days when Sunderland were the shooting stars of English football, Raich Carter and Bobby Gurney sharing 62 goals between them that season. What they require most of all just now, five games into Bruce's first Premier League campaign as manager, is some shutting stars – some defenders capable of shutting down the opposition in the manner of their manager when he was a rock at the heart of Manchester United's trophy- winning rearguard.
With that in mind, the Old Trafford old boy invested £6.5m worth of faith in the 24-year-old making his debut in the red and white No 4 shirt yesterday. Bruce must have liked what he saw from Michael Turner. Playing against the club he captained with a man-of-the-match performance in their last game, a 1-1 draw at Wolves, the Tiger-turned-Black Cat injected an instant measure of assurance into the rearguard of Bruce's team. He also provided some momentum at the other end, stealing into the Hull six-yard box to head home a right-wing corner from Andy Reid in the 75th minute.
Or to head it on its way, at any rate – Sunderland's fourth goal being subsequently officially chalked up as an own goal by Kamil Zayatte, the ball having deflected off the Guinean defender on its way past Boaz Myhill. Still, it capped a highly satisfying afternoon for Sunderland and their manager with Darren Bent bagging a brace and Turner looking a distinctly class act. "You can see why I brought him here," Bruce said of his new boy at the back. "He's a no-nonsense, old-fashioned type of centre-back. I'm sure he'll be a big crowd favourite here."
There is something of the old-fashioned winger about Andy Reid and the slimmed-down John Robertson-clone sparkled from start to finish yesterday. It was his 12th-minute corner from the left that drew the penalty, via a needlessly outstretched arm of Craig Fagan, which Bent buried for the opening goal – the striker's third goal since his £10m summer move.
Within a minute, Turner was showing his worth, calmly prodding the ball back to Craig Gordon when a Fagan header furnished Kamel Ghilas with a clear sight of the home goal. It was the kind of poise that was conspicuously absent from the collective home guard when Ghilas hoisted a left-wing corner into the goalmouth two minutes before the interval. Gordon stood rooted to his line and Zayatte gave Lorik Cana, Sunderland's Albanian midfielder and captain, the slip to head in the equaliser.
It proved to be a temporary piece of pussyfooting from the Black Cats. Four minutes into the second half Reid drilled them back in front with a peach of an angled drive. In the 66th minute, it was 3-1 – Anton Ferdinand, Turner's central defensive partner, sending Bent clear on the right and the former Spurs man keeping his cool before dispatching a low scoring shot. There was still a fourth goal to come for Sunderland – via a combination of Turner and Zayatte. Standing forlornly on the touchline, Phil Brown could only wince in frustration.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: Reid
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content