In the second part of our build up to the opening game of the season, we look back to the turn of the millennium. Sunderland were entering into the era dubbed as ‘second season syndrome’ and quite possibly a pivotal year for Peter Reid. To make things a little easier, their curtain raiser for the season was against an Arsenal side that only had the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg and David Seaman.
The last time these teams came face to face, Sunderland were rightly beaten 4-1 and given a master class of how the passing game should be played and how deadly, swift counter movements can be from a revamped side, conducted by Arsene Wenger.
The tactic that Reid had gave his squad before the game was simple – get stuck in.
The match itself should have been a walk in the park for The Gunners, constant bombardments of shots peppered Thomas Sorensen's goal was matched the Dane’s inspired form, blocking and palming attempts, doing anything and everything to claim a first clean sheet on the opening day of the season.
Wenger’s side huffed, puffed and sometimes fluffed, the away side just could not find a way past and that was the setting for the first half. Whatever Reid and his assistant Bobby Saxton were thinking to inspire his team at half time, it had to work, it had to really get under the skin of his players, to show some sign or retaliation and show that they can mix it up against the bigger teams. Whatever they said, worked.
Piling on the pressure, turning the screw you could say, Sunderland started to play with a little bit more relaxation whilst still under pressure.
Tackles went in, they got into the faces of the opposition and eventually the persistence paid off and thanks to an all too familiar mistake by England's number one. The Black Cats captured an early and surprising lead when Michael Gray’s deep cross bemused the 36-year-old who failed to deal with it, this left Quinn to take advantage and head the ball into the back of the net after 53 minutes.
Cue a resurgence from Arsenal, as Sorenson was replaced by Jurgen Macho, again they persisted with countless attacking football and again the replacement keeper’ was equal it as Darren Williams began to really grind the gears of a 24-year-old Vieira. Tempers not only from the players began to show but also from the manager.
Nails were being bitten, hands covered faces of some fans, others were still wondering if this game was actually happening and the score line was correct.
On the stroke of full time, the battle between Williams and Vieira finally boiled over, but it wasn't from the man in red and white responsible, instead the ill-disciplined Frenchman - who was slowly following in the footsteps of Roy Keane in the disciplinary points table then - lashed out with his forearm, leaving referee Steve Dunn no choice but to show him red, much to Wenger’s frustration.
Sunderland’s first three points against one of the league's most dangerous sides would be welcomed with great cheers, a few sighs of relief too. Stanislav Varga, making his debut for Sunderland, received the man of the match award for a sterling performance in central defence - and we all know how that went!
T Sorensen (J Macho, 48), C Makin, M Gray, E Roy (D Williams, 59), P Butler, S Varga, K Kilbane, P Thirlwell, D Holloway, N Quinn (M Reddy, 79), K Phillips.
Subs not used: S Bould, M Nunez
Goals: Quinn, 53.
Seaman, L Dixon (Lauren, 77), P Vieira (s/o 90), M Keown, T Adams, F Ljungberg (R Pires, 66), T Henry, R Parlour, Sylvinho, G Grimandi (D Bergkamp, 74), N Kanu
Subs not used: O Luzhny, A Manninger
Referee: Mr Steve Dunn