At the Helm: Keane takes charge

After relegation in 2006, Bob Murray sold the club to Niall Quinn and the Drumaville consortium.

Quinn was the first-ever person to play, manage and chairman Sunderland AFC in what was a crazy summer – but he was certain that he would bring in a world-class manager that would excite the fans.

It turned out that former Manchester United captain Roy Keane was the man he wanted to take the club forward in what was the most unlikely of partnerships because of their fallout at the 2002 World Cup while playing for the Republic of Ireland.

Keane took over immediately after Quinn’s final game – a victory at home to West Brom – and set about shaping his squad.

In came six players on deadline day in Dwight Yorke, David Connolly, Stan Varga, Liam Miller, Ross Wallace and Graham Kavanagh, and they helped to turn the momentum for the season.

Keane won his first two games in charge away at Derby County and Leeds United, which set the tone for what would be a magic carpet ride of a season.

Form was patchy up to mid-November with the team languishing 19th in the division as they struggled to build up consistency.

A 1-0 defeat against Preston at the end of December signalled the final time the Lads would taste defeat until the third last game of the season.

The Roy-volution was in full swing, and the team eventually all but sealed promotion in a whirlwind game against Burnley at the Stadium of Light with a 3-2 win.

On the final day, Sunderland won the title thanks to a 5-0 victory away at Luton Town.

Fans could be forgiven for not looking forward to the 2007-08 campaign after their previous two Premier League seasons where there broke their own record for least amount of points in a season.

Keane and Quinn went about their business in the summer of 2007 with the intent of building a squad capable of surviving.

In came Craig Gordon, Kenwyne Jones, Danny Higginbotham, Michael Chopra, Dickson Etuhu, Greg Halford, Paul McShane and Kieran Richardson to the squad which added some quality to a gritty squad.

The season started emphatically, with Chopra scoring a last-minute winner against Spurs at the Stadium of Light – but Sunderland would soon learn the harsh realities of Premier League life, losing four of their next five.

Home form was huge that season, with the Stadium becoming a fortress. Nine home wins against sides around us in the table and the thirty points we picked up at home were vital in our survival since our away form was so poor.

Roy Keane had consistently said throughout the 2007-08 campaign that we needed to win back-to-back games and in March we finally achieved that feat by winning three in a row.

An away win at Aston Villa was followed by a dramatic home win against West Ham and then a 3-1 away win at Fulham.

Survival was achieved with two games to spare after we defeated Middlesbrough 3-2 in a thrilling game at home, and the objective for the season was achieved.

The summer of 2008 saw a different approach to recruitment, as Roy Keane splashed the cash on household names.

Signing at the Academy of Light that summer were Djbrill Cisse, Steed Malbranque, Teemu Tainio, Pascal Chimbonda, El-Hadji Diouf, George McCartney, Anton Ferdinand and David Healy.

Expectations were high, with fans expecting a push for the top half of the division.

The season started with a defeat against Liverpool at home but that was followed by a 2-1 away win at White Hart Lane.

A derby victory against Newcastle came in October thanks to a stunning free-kick scored by Kieran Richardson – and that win put Sunderland in the top half.

Unfortunately, though, that was the high point of the season, as Keane lost six of the next seven games before leaving after a 4-1 home loss against Bolton Wanderers.

The Roy Keane era will always be fondly remembered by fans, as he instilled pride back into the club and turned them into a proper Premier League club again after years of yo-yoing between the divisions.

Back to top