Club legend profiled 38 years since his debut.38 years to the day Gary Rowell made his Sunderland debut in a 1-0 home win over Oxford United safc.com profiles one of the club’s biggest icons.
Seaham-born striker Rowell was spotted whilst playing for his local side and he would sign professional terms with the Black Cats in July 1974.
After making his debut in the win over Oxford, Rowell would score his first Sunderland goal in a 4-1 win at Hull City as the Wearsiders secured promotion to the top-flight in 1976.
The young striker couldn’t prevent immediate relegation the following season, though, as the Black Cats went down after a final day defeat at Everton.
Rowell had chipped in with five league goals during the 1976-77 campaign, including four in three consecutive home matches in wins over Middlesbrough, West Brom and West Ham in February 1977.
Gary blossomed in the 1977-78 season with 19 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions including doubles in wins over Blackpool, Sheffield United and Hull City.
He did even better in the following campaign with 24 goals in just 39 appearances with arguably the biggest highlight of his Sunderland career coming during the midway point of the season.
Rowell endeared himself to Black Cats fans with a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over local rivals Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.
However, a medial ligament injury restricted his appearances for the remainder of the season and he would make just 15 starts in the 1979-80 campaign due to the injury.
Sunderland had been promoted in 1980 and Rowell returned to scored 11 goals in 33 appearances including a winner against Crystal Palace and strikes against Manchester United and Arsenal.
Gary returned a similar record in the 1981-82 season as the Black Cats retained their top-flight status despite going on a 12-game winless run at the start of the campaign.
Rowell improved his goal-scoring ratio in his penultimate season on Wearside with a return of 18 goals in 41 appearances including a fine hat-trick in a 3-0 win over Arsenal at Roker Park.
The former England youth international scored 13 times in his final season with the club to take his tally to 103 goals in 297 appearances – a post-war record bettered by only Kevin Phillips.
Rowell joined Norwich in August 1984 before spells with Middlesbrough, Brighton and Carlisle United followed.
Gary continues to attend matches at the Stadium of Light as a columnist for Sunderland Echo.