The play-offs were back on.
And then they were back off.
But now they might be back on again, a bit.
This Sunday sees a clash between two play-off contenders which could go a long way to deciding which of them is still in with a chance of the top six by next month. Very weird to be playing with a bit of pressure again.
So let us distract ourselves from the fact that the seven fit first team players we have available (barely any of which are defenders), and take a look back at someone remembered fondly by both sets of fans. Or at least, fondly by us, he made a career move that Baggies fan probably didn’t like so much…
Big Bad Don himself. Despite having a career which saw him play for the majority of the West Midlands/Black Country clubs, Goodman is a Yorkshireman and began his career at Bradford back in 1984.
His first season in football had a harrowing end as he was on the pitch the day of the horrific Valley Parade fire on the 11th May 1985, a catastrophe which claimed the lives of 56 fans, including Goodman’s girlfriend. Goodman has been very vocal about how that day has haunted him, and it was arguably the catalyst for his steely determination and a lot of decisions he made in his career, grasping every opportunity afforded to him without hesitation.
After three season, one promotion and 14 goals with Bradford, Goodman moved on to sign for West Brom in 1987, and quickly became a hero for Baggies fans. Managed by Ron Atkinson, West Brom boasted a team that contained the talents of Andy Gray and Carlton Palmer but just could not make the final step to achieve promotion from the old Second Division into the top flight.
For each of Goodman’s four years at the Hawthorns, it felt like they were just one push away from jumping up the league, but instead ended sinking closer to the bottom of the division, eventually West Brom were relegated to the Third Division at the end of the 90/91 season. Not to say that Goodman didn’t do everything in his power to change that, as his league record for the Baggies was an impressive 60 goals in 158 games.
The lure of a better chance of getting promotion proved too much for Goodman to refuse, and when Sunderland came calling in December 1991, he headed North East to become the final signing of Denis Smith’s tenure at Roker Park. Costing Sunderland £900k, which made him the club’s record signing, Goodman was deemed the replacement for Marco Gabbiadini, who had left for Crystal Palace earlier that season. His debut fittingly came against the Baggies’ main rivals, Wolves, in a 1-0 loss.
A steady start for Don quickly stepped up a notch when, on only his seventh outing in red and white, he hit a hat-trick against Millwall in just 16 minutes as the Lads battered the Lions 6-2. The season didn’t go as planned for Sunderland though, as with Denis Smith’s sacking just a month after Goodman’s arrival, Malcolm Crosby couldn’t turn around our league fortunes as we staggered to an 18th placed finish. Of course, we also reached the FA Cup final, so that was a nice distraction, but not for Don, who was cup tied, and presumably very much peeved.
The 92/93 season saw things get worse for Sunderland, as not only had we lost the FA Cup final and missed out on appointing everyone’s favourite eyebrowless manager, Neil Warnock, but our continued bid to get out of Division Two almost saw us relegated as we finished 21st under Crosby’s replacement, Terry Butcher. Don however, had a lovely old time, netting 16 times in an otherwise abject season.
Sunderland’s failure to get even close to the promotion battle meant that Goodman couldn’t refuse a return to the Midlands when big spenders Wolves paid £1.1m for him in December 1994, ending his three-year stay on Wearside. Baggies fans won’t have been best pleased with Goodman turning out for their Black County nemesis, but they will have been comforted by the fact that despite being all their efforts and spending, Wolves simply could not make that final push to get themselves in the Premier League – although they did finish in the play-offs twice.
Of course, irony would kick in as Sunderland won the First Division the season after Goodman departed, so incredibly, despite his 20 years in football and impressive goal record, Don Goodman never got to play in the top division of English football.
Don’s spell at Wolves ended after four years, when he made the highly unusual career move to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan. A pair of goals in ten games followed, before Goodman returned to the UK with two loan spells, first with a goalless run at Barnsley, then a stint at Motherwell, who went on to sign him permanently in 1999.
Two years in Scotland brought eight goals before the pull of the Midlands came calling yet again and he joined Walsall, and was promptly promoted to the second tier, in 2001.
At the end of his second season at Walsall, Goodman was on the move again, and joined Exeter, making sure he had covered the entire length of the country in one career. Final moves to Doncaster on loan, and latterly Stafford Rangers in the non-league followed before Goodman hung up his boots in 2003 at the age of 37, with 162 league goals to his name.
You can now find Don as a regular commentator for Sky, where he despite his time at Sunderland, he seems to try to make a point of not showing any bias and often ends up being lambasted by most Massive Lads Fans, because football is strange and confusing.
A cult hero to many a Sunderland fan, and it’s a crying shame he never got to taste top flight football.
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