His goal was, perhaps, the most significant in Sunderland's history but few people remember Ian Porterfield's muted celebration seconds after he inflicted the decisive blow on a Leeds team destined for defeat in the 1973 FA Cup final. An awkward smile, a half-hearted leap and a handful of manly hugs from delighted team-mates marked a defining moment for the quintessential underdog.
Back then, backflips were for dolphins or international gymnasts. Second Division footballers boasted no bling, modest incomes and a modicum of self-restraint – even when scoring the winning goal at Wembley. However, extravagance is an essential trait in the make-up of the modern-day professional and when the Sunderland forward Kenwyne Jones marked his home debut with a splendid goal, the response was a gravity-defying back somersault which brought a passionate crowd to its feet.
On the day Wearside gathered to celebrate Porterfield's life – the former Black Cats midfielder had lost his long battle against cancer earlier in the week – nothing less than victory would have provided a suitable tribute. Jones understood and his fine 29th-minute goal always ensured joy would overshadow a deep sense of loss.
"I knew of Ian Porterfield, not as a Sunderland player, but as my country's national team manager," said the Trinidad & Tobago forward. "It was sad to hear he succumbed to his illness, although I know he had been suffering for a while. I think he will probably be in a better place now."
How Porterfield would have loved the way Jones revelled in his role as the Stadium of Light's new calypso king. During his time in Port of Spain, the Scot laid the foundations which would see Trinidad & Tobago qualify for last summer's World Cup finals for the first time. Jones, 22, is at the forefront of an exciting generation benefiting from Porterfield's legacy.
Exciting and, according to his manager, Roy Keane, reckless. "I swear I didn't see the celebration, but it's very dangerous," said the former Manchester United midfielder. "I had to bring Kenwyne off with a slight knock at the end and maybe that's how he damaged his leg."
After breaking a four-game losing streak, even Keane could not claim to be disappointed, despite the Reading forward Dave Kitson pinching a late consolation for the Royals five minutes from time. The Sunderland midfielder Ross Wallace had doubled the home team's advantage two minutes after half-time and, with Jones running riot, the result never looked in doubt.
"It is a concern that we are in the bottom three," admitted the Reading manager, Steve Coppell. "It is a little bit oppressive. But we have to be big enough to accept the challenge and get ourselves out of it."
Goals: Jones (29) 1-0; Wallace (47) 2-0; Kitson (85) 3-0.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Gordon; McShane, Higginbotham, Nosworthy, Collins; Leadbitter, Etuhu, Yorke, Wallace (Stokes, 64); Jones (Murphy, 83), Chopra (Miller, 81). Substitutes not used: Ward, Halford.
Reading (4-4-2): Hahnemann; Murty, Bikey, Ingimarsson, Shorey; Rosenior (Convey, 78), Harper, Gunnarsson (Fae, 73), Hunt; Lita (Long, 67), Kitson. Substitutes not used: Federici, De la Cruz.
Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).
Booked: Sunderland Wallace; Reading Gunnarsson, Bikey.
Man of the match: Jones.
Attendance: 39,272.Reuse content