A brief look at the date today and my mind instantly drifted back 14 years to 1998 and that monumental match which would later be known as 'The Greatest Game'. Perhaps more significantly, a few years back it was voted the 19th greatest game of football ever played...and I am proud and honoured to say I was at Wembley Stadium that day to witness drama of the highest order. The picture above is a montage of a series of images I took from my seat behind the goal that day (with a disposable camera, no less! How times have changed?).
I absolutely love that image because, although poor quality, it represents an everlasting and cherished snapshot of one of the most memorable days of my life. Looking through that image and on to the pitch evokes so many memories, both good and bad.
Like anyone there, including those fantastic Sunderland fans, I went through a range of emotions throughout that whole day that are incomparable to anything I'd ever encountered before or since, and I can honestly say that I never, ever want to go through that again!
It was total agony and despair, elation and euphoria mixed up in one bubbling cauldron that just wouldn't calm down. The relentless noise inside that ageing old stadium was unbelievable. For not a single moment until Sasa Ilic saved Micheal Gray's penalty was anyone able to relax, and even then, the impact of that moment hit me like a sledgehammer. It was days after before I came back down to earth.
The game ebbed and flowed back and forth and I have so many memories of individual moments that have been lodged deep inside my brain ever since. The moment Mendonca (a boyhood Sunderland fan) controls Kieth Jones through-ball for our second goal will live with me forever and that goal is one of my all time favourites. I can recall rising from my seat and thinking "if he gets the second touch right we've scored". It seemed to take an eternity for the ball to hit the net. Oh, the despair when Nial Quinn scored their 3rd, before the elation of Rufus equalised so late on with what was his first goal for the club (the Addickted behind the goal was quite literally sucking the ball goalward). Steve Brown's crunching tackle that led to our 4th goal. The agony of watching Newton step up for a penalty convinced he wasn't going to score. How pleased I was to be wrong. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Greatest Game...
On my wall at home is a framed time-delay image of Sasa saving that penalty. What a moment? What a day?