Going into the Tyne & Wear Derby between Newcastle United and Sunderland, Ruud Gullit was a worried man. Newcastle had made a dreadful start to the campaign, conceding 11 goals in their first four matches and only collecting one point in that time too.
It was rumoured that a power struggle was developing at the club between the Dutch manager and his skipper, Alan Shearer. Shearer had been sent off on the opening day during a home defeat to Aston Villa and missed the home game with Wimbledon three days earlier due to suspension.
For a clash as big as this in the north east, it was expected that Shearer would come straight back into the line-up but Gullit decided to throw the dice and make the biggest decision of his managerial career. He left Shearer on the bench and Duncan Ferguson too. If it paid off, it would be an inspired move. If it didn’t, he would surely pay the price.
On an evening where the weather would have been more pleasant for ducks, Newcastle led at half-time but goals after the interval from Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips helped Sunderland to a 2-1 victory. Both Shearer and Ferguson had arrived on the pitch by that stage but the damage had been done.
Gullit defended his selection afterwards but it was clear he had lost the support of the fans. He had lost the battle and quit 48 hours later. He hasn’t managed in the English game since.