eric gates

Player of the Day: Eric Gates

by Ashley Houghton

One half of famous strike partnership profiled.

One half of the famous ‘G-Force’ strike partnership of the late 1980’s, Eric Gates played 220 games for Sunderland, scoring 55 goals.

Born in Ferryhill, Gates was a schoolboy with Bishop Auckland before moving to Ipswich Town’s youth team where he won the 1973 FA Youth Cup.

Gates turned pro shortly afterwards and went on to score 96 goals in 378 games for the Tractor Boys as they won the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981.

His form for Ipswich saw him receive two England caps during his time in Suffolk; his first was in a 4-0 victory over Norway and his second a 2-1 defeat to Romania.

In 1985 Gates moved to Wearside as Lawrie McMenemy’s star signing in his first season in charge.

During his first campaign with Sunderland, Gates scored 11 goals in 45 games in all competitions as he began to find his feet with his new club.

Just three months into his Sunderland career he scored the winning goal in a 1-0 Wear-Tees derby victory over Middlesbrough at Roker Park.

Gates’ second season on Wearside ended in relegation from Division Two after a survival-playoff defeat to Gillingham.

McMenemy was sacked as Sunderland manager and legendary boss Bob Stokoe took over to try and steer the club to survival, though the Black Cats’ failure to beat Barnsley at home on the last day meant they would play the Gills over two legs.

Gates scored twice in the second leg, though Sunderland were relegated on away goals in extra time.

Denis Smith took the reins ahead of the 1987-88 campaign and made Marco Gabbiadini one his early signings.

And the two struck it off immediately with just under half of the side's goals coming from the pair.

Gates and Gabbiadini scored 40 goals during the championship-winning season with Gates scoring four of his 19 goals in a 7-0 win over Southend United.

The following campaign was a lot tougher for the strike pair as a tough Division Two containing Chelsea and Manchester City made scoring much harder for the G-Force.

Gabbiadini still notched 18 times, though Gates recorded just four goals in his 24 starts – his finest moment was the winning goal in a 1-0 away win at Bournemouth.

Sunderland proved much more competitive during the 1989-90 season and finished fifth with Gates scoring seven times, most notably against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park in the play-off semi-finals before providing Gabbiadini for the second in a 2-0 victory.

It was to be Gates’ last season on Wearside as he joined Carlisle United following his release; he scored eight goals in 38 league games for United before retiring at the end of the 1990-91 campaign.