Keano Karate And Shoot-out Glory – Sunderland’s 2008 Clash With Northampton Town Had It All

Michael Lough looks back at a memorable encounter between Roy Keane's Black Cats and the Cobblers in 2008

Sunderland v Northampton Town in a Carling Cup third round tie doesn’t sound like a game to get the pulses racing, but in September 2008, the two sides produced a game that had pretty much everything.

The tie featured late drama, a penalty shootout, Roy Keane karate chopping a tactics board off the dressing room wall and a pre-banter era Adebayo Akinfenwa.

Sunderland, then a Premier League side, actually went into the game on something of a high, after beating Middlesbrough 2-0 the previous Saturday courtesy of two late Michael Chopra goals. 

Any potential feel good factor was soon forgotten, however, as League One side Northampton came out the traps flying and took the lead on 20 minutes through Luke Guttridge. 

As you’d expect, this didn’t go down too well with Keane and he let the players know that the first half display was far from satisfactory. 

Danny Collins was one of the victims of the Irishman’s tirade and recalled what it was like to be on the receiving end of Keane’s wrath: “The gaffer was raging, he booted the tactics board across the changing room and went ballistic at us. He was almost fighting with one or two of the lads.

“At full-time he never even came back into the changing rooms.” 

The second half showed little prospect of improvement as Sunderland continued to struggle against lower league opposition, and Northampton doubled their lead with less than ten minutes on the clock.

Although Danny accepts the performance wasn’t acceptable, he doesn’t feel it was for lack of trying: “Yes, we were a Premier League side and they were a League One side but I’m not sure it was a case of the lads not giving it their all. 

“We should’ve been beating them, but football doesn’t work like that, we were below par and they had a good go at us and deserved to be ahead.” Said Danny.

With the visitors leading 2-0 with less than five minutes on the clock, you’d be forgiven for thinking the game was over, but just as a lot of fans headed for the exits, Anthony Stokes scrambled the ball home to give the lads hope.

Then, deep into stoppage time, the out of favour forward headed home Andy Reid’s corner to take the game to extra time.

Neither side added to their tally in extra time and the supporters who had braved the full 120 minutes were treated to a penalty shootout.

Northampton missed their first spot kick and after successful attempts from Michael Chopra and Daryl Murphy, Sunderland looked to be cruising, but as so often happens in penalty shootouts, the hero of normal time, Stokes hit the crossbar to give Northampton renewed hope.

Fortunately for Sunderland, that was their only failed attempt in the shootout and Marton Fulop produced a fantastic save to ensure that the lads progressed to the next round.

Roy Keane may not have given a subsequent team talk in the dressing room, but he certainly made his feelings known in his post-match interview: “It was probably one of the worst and longest nights I have ever had in my football career. It was a shambles.”

“From the start, it was walking pace, nobody sprinting, the passing was awful, nobody was prepared to run off the ball, supporters booing everybody, abusing me towards the end.” 

I know, I wish he’d just say what he meant as well.

Despite being part of a side that was on the receiving end of such a public bollocking, Collins didn’t have a problem with anything Keane said on the night: “We knew it wasn’t a good performance, but we managed to sneak through. 

“I don’t have an issue when a manager comes out and tells it as it is, sometimes a manager does it to get a reaction out of his players as well.”

Let’s hope Sunday’s game is a more tranquil affair and we aren’t reading reports of Lee Johnson offering out Carl Winchester after a disappointing result come Monday morning. 

Michael Lough