Saturday Spotlight: Kieran hopes for wonder goal repeat

15 January 2011 11:32
During his three-and-a-half-years on Wearside, Kieran Richardson has experienced the highs and the lows of a Tyne-Wear derby. Chief football writer Paul Fraser reveals how one derby moment has been the highlight of his career so far.

THERE was a quarter of an hour to go and it seemed Newcastle United were again destined to escape from Wearside with at least a point.

Sunderland fans had been forced to wait 28 long years for a home victory and the time was ticking down on another opportunity missed.

Then El-Hadji Diouf charged inside from the left wing, played a neat wall pass with Steed Malbranque and was tripped just outside the box by Nicky Butt. It was a stupid mistake from the former England midfielder in a dangerous area.

When the ball was placed inches outside the penalty area and almost central, a position many observers feel is too close for a free-kick to be taken successfully, Kieran Richardson stepped up.

It would have been almost impossible for the ball to be lofted over the wall and down again to cause Shay Given problems. It was also deemed to be too close to bend round the wall. So Richardson, forced to hover for what felt like an eternity for him, had other ideas and still recalls the highest moment of my career.

I remember there was a lot of wind around that day and I picked up the ball and thought we were quite close, said Richardson. I first thought I would try to curl. But because I was so close I changed my mind. I decided that would be too hard, so I just thought I'd strike it instead.

It took ages.

Someone went down injured for the foul and the free-kick took another four minutes to actually take. It felt like a long time. When it went in, the ground erupted.

That moment has rightfully taken its place in Wearside folklore.

Sunderland supporters, and Newcastle fans albeit for different reasons, will forever recall the way Richardson's left-foot strike arrowed beyond the flailing hand of Given with such incredible power and precision.

If the quality of the goal was not enough to earn the plaudits itself, it also proved decisive.

Shola Ameobi had cancelled out Djibril Cisse's opener, but Richardson's strike sealed Sunderland's first home win in a derby since Stan Cummins' goal in April 1980.

The memories of such a Sunday afternoon will come flooding back tomorrow afternoon for Richardson and anyone else there to witness the last Wear-Tyne derby to have taken place at the Stadium of Light.

I would love to do it again.

It would be a dream for me,

said the left-back, who has since scored only three more goals in 27 months.

During that period Newcastle, who relinquished Premier League status that season, have enjoyed something of a renaissance.

Winning the Championship the following year meant a return of the derby and they got their revenge with a stunning 5-1 win at St James' Park last October.

It was a case of going from one extreme to the other for Richardson at the Stadium of Light almost two years to the day earlier.

After one it was all doom and gloom. Losing 5-1, it doesn't get much worse, said Richardson, who also emerged from the bench in the defeat at St James' in April 2008 and in the 1-1 draw ten months later.

But you look back to the game I scored in and everyone was happy. The celebrations were amazing.

We were all hugging and congratulating each other.

Hopefully we will feel like that again on Sunday.

Even if you ask the foreign lads who were around that day, like Cisse, (Pascal) Chimbonda and (El-Hadji) Diouf, they were all bouncing around and dancing on the pitch because they had got into the occasion.

Those guys had played in World Cups, higher levels.

That was probably one of the biggest games they have ever played in, basically because of the atmosphere.

They wanted to take it all in after the game and savour it. It was something we all wanted to do. We never wanted to forget it.

Richardson spent five years at Manchester United, where he faced City a few times. He also played a significant part in keeping West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League during a loan spell with Bryan Robson in the final few months of the 2004-05 season.

But whatever he has encountered during a career that has earned him England caps and appearances in the Champions League, there is something that little bit extra special about the Wear-Tyne occasion.

I have played in some big games as well but that experience and that day we won was great for everyone, for the fans and all at the club, said Richardson.

The emotions after that game are difficult to put into words, but it is such a big game up here because it means so much to them. You don't really understand it until you come up here and talk to people about it.

People are still talking about my goal to this day, which shows how big it is. I knew it was a massive game. I watched the Celtic v Rangers game two weeks ago and you could see the passion in the players' and fans' eyes.

They are very similar derbies. This has got to be one of the biggest derbies in the world.

Roy Keane, the manager who took Richardson to Sunderland and was in charge when they ended their 28-year wait for a home triumph, played his part in ensuring the class of 2008 knew all about the importance of the Newcastle-Sunderland occasion.

Everyone knew the history, said Richardson.

During a midweek morning chat at Sunderland's Academy of Light training ground, Richardson was relaxed and looking forward to the next derby as it rapidly approaches.

He has every right to he has never lost a derby of any sort when he has started the match.

It could prove telling, then, if Sunderland manager Steve Bruce hands him another start tomorrow. And he explained there is a genuine, collective determination to put right the wrongs of one of the worst defeats of his career.

Even though the events of October 2008 were irreplaceable, he would prefer the events of Halloween 2010 to disappear forever.

We suffered enough embarrassment last time and none of us want to feel like that again, he said.

It was awful. We had to wait around for our bus and we could hear the fans singing and chanting and it wasn't nice for us. We had lost 5-1 but obviously it was great for Newcastle. I am sure, if we win on Sunday, we will give them the same treatment.

It is a massive game for everyone at the club and Newcastle will be on a high because they beat us.

For me, on that day, we did not turn up at all and the people who were involved, playing in their first derby, won't have realised just how big the derby is. They do now.

From the manager down to the kit-man, Newcastle had stunned their most fierce counterparts.

Richardson said: There was silence on the bus that day. The lads were all very upset and tried to recap on their own performances. The dressing room was silent as well.

It was pretty obvious the manager was hurt and angry.

He has a lot of passion for the club and you can see it every day. We admire that. He is a Geordie and because of that I think he wanted to win very badly.

He wanted to show Sunderland fans he cared, which he does. More than anything I am sure he wants to show on Sunday how much he cares. We all do.

Source: Northern_Echo