It’s all gotten a bit tricky in the past few weeks, and the start of a run of games that’ll make you wince could not have been more poorly-timed for us.
Not that we want to be accused of bleating on about something, but we really could have done with another striker and more experience in midfield, but c’est la vie.
With that in mind, let’s remember some players who could played where we’re now desperately short, if that’ll help cheer us up.
Number one, is of course, Gary Rowell.
Simply put, Gary Rowell is a Sunderland legend. Local boy born and bred, Rowell made his debut way back in in 75/76 season at 18 years old, scored his first in a 4-1 win against Hull later that season, and, by the start of the following year, had nailed down a place in the starting XI despite his inexperience.
In his debut season, Rowell won the Second Division with Sunderland and earned a call up to the England U21s in the process, but things kicked up a gear by 1979, where Rowell scored just shy of 40 goals across two seasons.
Of course, the crowning moment in Rowell, as it would probably be for any boyhood Sunderland fan’s career, came on 24th February 1979, as he put three past the Mags in a textbook seeing to. Really, he could have just retired there and then.
Unfortunately however, just weeks after making Tyneside very sad indeed, the first of what would be many serious injuries struck when he ruptured his knee against Leyton Orient. Several months of recovery followed, and he did make his comeback the following season, but fitness became an increasing issue for Rowell, often struggling to string together lengthy runs in the team, albeit still scoring on the regular.
Rowell’s time at the club sadly came to an end in 1984 when manager (and fellow club legend) Len Ashurst booted him out of Roker Park in an attempt to build a new, younger side – and given we ultimately ended up in the third division within a matter of years, you can tell it went well.
The destination for Rowell couldn’t have been much further away from Wearside, as he joined Norwich City. Unfortunately for him though, the fitness concerned that had plagued his final years at Sunderland followed him to Norfolk as he was hit by another knee injury during pre-season with the Canaries. His time at Norwich was limited to just one season, bringing with it only six appearances and a solitary goal.
In the latter years of his career, Rowell started touring the length of the country; first he headed back to the North East for a more fruitful spell at Middlesbrough, netting 10 in 27 games, before bouncing straight back down south with a goalless stint at Brighton.
Where do you go from Brighton? Why, Dundee (on loan) and Carlisle of course, before the last move of his career, Burnley, where he scored once in 19 games, retiring in 1990 aged 33.
Since retiring, Rowell is of course fondly remembered as one half of Metro Radio’s double act on Sunderland commentary with Simon Crabtree.
Capped only twice at U21 level with England, had injuries not blighted his chances, there’s no doubt that Rowell would’ve made his full international debut at the peak of his powers, but once thing you can’t take away from him is that he was Sunderland’s all-time post-war goalscorer, with 102 goals in all competitions.
Well, unless you’re Kevin Phillips, who surpassed him about 20 years ago, but still, it took a long time to happen.
It’s been almost 40 years since Rowell last kicked a ball for Sunderland, and still to this day (and seemingly most notably on our various Wembley trips), you will hear rounds of that chant. We do all indeed live in a Gary Rowell world.
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I’m not sure why, and I may or may not be in the minority here, but I absolutely loved Dickson Etuhu.
Signed by Roy Keane upon our return to the Premier League in 2007, he was brought in to provide some much-needed physicality in our midfield (fancy that, eh?). In no way was Etuhu spectacular for Sunderland, but he did the dirty work in midfield, and he did it well.
Plus, he was absolutely hard as nails. Of course, one of the great images of modern times at Sunderland is that of Joey Barton filling his pants after daring to square up to our behemoth from Nigeria.
He also scored a lovely goal against Wigan. I’d like to say there was more to his Sunderland career, but that was about it, over and out in just one season as we sold him to Fulham the following year.
Etuhu came through Manchester City’s academy, made a handful of appearances and left to join Preston in 2002. Going on to make over 150 appearances in the North West, Etuhu made the move to Norwich in 2005, becoming a regular in the Canaries team over an 18-month spell, but headed up to Wearside after failing to win promotion in East Anglia.
His days at Fulham were slap in the middle of Roy Hodgson’s weirdly successful spell at the club, so he helped himself to a Europa League runners up medal in 2010. A regular for each of his four years in London, Etuhu finally left for Blackburn Rovers in 2012, but struggled for proper game time and left three years later with only 23 appearances to his name.
The last two season’s of Etuhu’s career were spent in Sweden with AIK, and a brief stint with 5th division club IFK Rossjoholm (entirely made up), before retiring in 2017.
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