Denis Smith: 30 May 1987 - 30 December 1991

Denis Smith lifted Sunderland from lowly Division Three back to the top tier of English football during his reign at Roker Park.

The new manager left York City for £20,000 compensation, promising to pay more out of his own pocket if he failed to win promotion in his first year.

Having led the Minstermen to the Fourth Division title in 1983-84, Smith went one better with Sunderland in 1987-88 winning Division Three with an average of two goals per game.

A steady season in Division Two followed before Sunderland were finally welcomed back to the top tier in 1989-90, albeit in unorthodox fashion. Despite losing the play-off final to Swindon Town, the Robins were later refused promotion due to financial irregularities.

Sunderland’s stay in the First Division under Smith proved to be short-lived as a last-day defeat at Oxford United saw the Wearsiders banished back into the second tier.

Smith was dismissed two days later.

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