The start to the decade was a struggle with too many drawn games and narrow defeats, and it ended in the club's sixth relegation in 33 years on the last day of the season at Manchester City. Off the field Sunderland won a national award as Community Club of the Year, leading a growing movement towards greater involvement in coaching and education among local people.
Another poor season in the league 1991/92 almost ended in fairy tale success. Malcolm Crosby rose from reserve team coach to manager to lead his team out at Wembley for Sunderland's fourth FA Cup Final. Sunderland had the better of the first half, but the strength and experience of Liverpool secured a 2-0 win with two second half goals.
There was now a growing gap in football between the big, wealthy clubs and the rest. It led to the first division clubs breaking away from the Football League to set up the FA Premiership for the 1992/93 season.Terry Butcher had been appointed and took charge for 1992/93 but the promise once more nearly ended in disaster as Sunderland avoided the dreaded now 2nd division by only 1 point.
1993/94 with Mick Buxton witnessed a mediocre season. Our mid table finish was perhaps progress from the previous seasons disaster but Sunderland were still struggling in the wilderness. The future looked grim, but help was just around the corner.
Sunderland AFC revealed an ambitious plan for a new stadium with up to 48,000 seats, a huge car park, private boxes, restaurants and lounges, to be built on a green-field site in Washington. The £120 million project would include leisure, retail and hotel facilities intended to provide a major venue for sporting and conference events for the region. Supporters voted 96% in favour. However, the Washington stadium plan met planning objections and the club set its sights on the former Wearmouth Colliery land less than a mile from Roker Park. There seemed to be better prospects for planning approval for this site.
Peter Reid arrived at Sunderland AFC with just 7 games remaining of the 1994/95 season, relegation hanging over the club and an investigation into The Black Cats fielding an ineligible player. We survived by the skin of our teeth. Then the tide turned for Wearside.
With basically the same squad that had only just survived relegation the previous season, 1995/96 brought about the Football League Championship. Good news on the stadium front as the club looked forward to a new home.
1996/97 would be our last season at Roker Park, as a Premier League ground. Sunderland took their leave from Roker Park after 99 years and in doing so said farewell to one of the most famous grounds in British football. It also ended in the tears of relegation on the final day of the season in South London, with defeat by Wimbledon. What would the future hold at our new home?
The Stadium Of Light was immense. The inaugral game against Ajax
of Amsterdam saw supporters stare in disbelief at their new home.
Once more however the campaign ended in tears, at Wembley Stadium,
as one of the all time classic matches ended 4 v 4. Football's
own game of Russian roulette was witnessed as Charlton Athletic
pipped Sunderland for promotion on penalties. 1997/98 was an
historic season for the club, but things were about to reach new
In 1998/99 Sunderland not only reached the Worthington Cup semi final but swept all before them in the league. A record 105 points saw them deservedly enter the promised land of the FA Carling Premiership.
Sunderland's infrastructure was the envy of all as 40,000 plus crowds became common place as The Black Cats settled excellently to life back with the Big Boys. No relegation, no heartaches, just a brilliant and solid season, which saw the club end 7th, their highest placing in over 40 years. We had the European Golden shoe winner in 30 goal Kevin Phillips. A bright future lay ahead for the club.
The 20th Century ended at home to Manchester United. The present Kings of English football against the past...and perhaps future? No one knew...as the excitement rose....