Sunderland Throwback – When the Black Cats Ended Their Home Hoodoo Against Fulham

Michael Lough goes back to 2006 to recall a winning encounter for Sunderland against Fulham

As Sunderland fans we are so used to being the team that breaks a bad run of luck for the opposition that we really ought to rebrand ourselves as a charity.

What’s that Ade Akinbiyi, you haven’t scored for 14 games? No worries, we’ll sort that out for you. Ah, Queens Park Rangers, you haven’t mustered a single point away from home and we’re now into February and haven’t appointed a permanent manager yet…have a two nil victory.

Of course, there will have been plenty of times we haven’t broken a curse for struggling opponents but as football fans we all like to think our own team is uniquely cursed.

Does this phenomenon actually work the other way round, though? Well yes, yes it does. Twice in the space of 12 years, Fulham ensured that the Lads didn’t go a full calendar year without winning at home.

The most recent and arguably more talked about clash came on December 16, 2017 when a late Josh Maja winner prevented us from going 365 days without a home win.

As Wise Men Say founding father Gareth Barker quipped on the podcast just prior to the victory over the West London side, ‘the clocks have gone forward and back again and we still haven’t won at home.’

During that time period we also had three different permanent managers and held the lead at the Stadium of Light for a grand total of three minutes.

Maja’s goal 13 minutes from time did at least tip our total for 2017 over the 15-minute mark; Rome was of course, not built in a day.

Back in 2005, we were promoted from the Championship and signed off the season with a routine 1-0 home win over Stoke in front of a sell out crowd at the Stadium of Light.

On May 4, 2006 Sunderland played Fulham in their final home game of the following campaign and hadn’t won another home game in the league. To be fair we’d only won twice away so at least there was some form of consistency.

During this barren spell, we were spoiled by two cup victories on home turf, the first of which was a pulsating 1-0 win over Cheltenham Town after extra time, and we positively trounced Northwich Victoria of Conference North 3-0.

Despite this indulgence, there are plenty of statistics from that time period to play the winning card in a game of crap football team Top Trumps.

Manager Mick McCarthy ended the 2002/03 season in the dugout following Howard Wilkinson’s sacking but couldn’t stop the rot and lost the remaining nine games of that season, five of which were home matches.

By the time he was sacked in March 2006, Mick Mac had still failed to win a home game in 19 attempts, collecting a miserable points tally of four points out of a possible 60.

Kevin Ball came in to oversee the final ten games of the season. And despite confirmation of our relegation following soon after, there were signs that Ball was capable of being something of a miracle worker.

On April 1, 2006, yes that was genuinely the day it happened, Jon Stead scored his only Premier League foal for the lads in an equally rare draw at Goodison Park.

His next great achievement was guiding us to a goalless draw at Manchester United which saw us relegated, but mercifully denied Newcastle the opportunity to officially condemn Sunderland to relegation just a few days later.

A further defeat followed at home to Arsenal taking the number of games since our last Premier League win to 28.

In all honesty, that total should have been 29 and a full season of winless home fixtures complete, but the weather decided to have a meltdown and the original tie against Fulham in April had to be abandoned.

Mike Riley called proceedings to a halt on 21 minutes but we had still found time to concede, and Rory Delap was forced to depart after he collided with George McCarthy, sustaining a facial injury.

Remarkably, 28,226 turned up to the rearranged midweek fixture and their stoic loyalty was rewarded after 32 minutes when Anthony Le Tallec ensured that he would end the season as joint top scorer when he glanced home his third goal of the campaign.

Roared on by the home support, Sunderland played with a new found confidence and should have made it 2-0 shortly after, but Justin Hoyte managed to tread on the ball instead of simply side footing it into the net and if that didn’t sum up our season, I don’t know what did.

We looked to have made the game safe when Chris Brown followed in Nyron Nosworthy’s effort and fired home from close range.

But this is Sunderland and we diligently refused to allow our fanbase to risk excessive levels of enjoyment and contentment, allowing Fulham to pull a goal back with 15 minutes on the clock.

Fortunately, we hung on to secure our first Premier League home victory since December 2002.

After the match, the lads received a heroes’ reception as they completed their lap of appreciation. It was the first time I had witnessed us win a top flight game in the flesh and at the time it felt like we’d won the actual competition.

Coincidentally, Chris Coleman was in the dugout for both of the fixtures mentioned in this piece. The Welshman managed Fulham back in 2006 and, of course, was in charge of Sunderland when they beat the Cottagers in 2017.

The last time we made it to the FA Cup fifth round was back in 2015 when, you guessed it, we beat Fulham 3-1 in a fourth round replay.

Let’s hope Fulham keep up their curse-breaking reputation.

Ha’way The Lads!