By Mark Young
This week we go back 16 years to when the former Black Cats striker announced himself on the big stage, with a hat-trick against Rams in his debut Premier League season.
18th September 18th 1999: Derby County 0 Sunderland 5
In September 1999, the world cowered at the thought of the Millennium Bug and Manchester United were mere months removed from winning a historic treble. The Vengaboys we’re going to Ibiza at the top of the charts, with Lou Bega slightly behind them as he seemingly wanted a Little Bit of everything.
Summer was turning into autumn as another season hit game week eight as the newly-promoted Black Cats were set for a trip to Derby County. Peter Reid’s side hit their stride really early in the 98/99 season, losing only three games as they closed in on the First Division Championship. Kevin Phillips scored 23 league goals that season but it was time to go a step further.
The striker started the season like a man on fire. He opened his account with two goals at home to Watford in the first game of the season at the Stadium of Light. He would score away at Leeds, away at Newcastle in a great win and at home to Coventry.
Next up were the Rams of Derby County with the game eventually proving to show which team would prosper and which would struggle for the next eight months.
Sunderland started as they meant to go on as Gavin McCann opened the scoring with a tidy finish midway through the first half after a scramble in the away team’s area.
Michael Gray would then take the initiative with a huge run down the left wing as he was given the freedom of Pride Park. He would lay the ball on a plate for Phillips to slot past Russell Hoult with three minutes to go until half time.
The predatory instincts would of Phillips were to be proven even further as a mix-up in the Rams defence lead to a first-time finish after 52 minutes, before Niall Quinn made it four with 55 minutes on the clock after some awful goalkeeping.
The match would go on to slow down a bit before a flowing Black Cats break lead to Phillips taking home the match ball in a superb 5-0 victory.
Sunderland would go on to finish a magnificent seventh place in the Premier League in the 1999/00 season, with Derby surviving by five points. Phillips would continue his lightning form all season long and netted a superb 30 goals. Not bad for your first season in the big time, eh?
Follow Mark at @markyoung1988