With the summer influx of foreign players into the club, it is easy to assume that we have exciting times ahead, watching a team full of talent from all corners of the globe. Deputy Editor Malcolm Dawson has seen it all before, albeit not in such numbers. He recalls some of the overseas imports from Black Cats’ history, some good, some not so good and some bizarre. Here is the final part – subtitled The Ugly in which he highlights a series of mistakes, misdemeanours or anything else that came to mind.
Having already selected two teams of overseas nationals who have been on the books of Sunderland AFC there remains a whole host of others who deserve a mention. So here is my third XI, the criteria for selection being whatever took my fancy.
There are plenty of candidates for the place between the sticks, Martin Fulop, Jurgen Macho and Lionel Perez to name but three, but there was only one player in my mind to fill the goalkeeping jersey – Mart Poom.
Poom’s physical appearance would have made him a candidate for a Bond villain’s henchman, but the reason he makes my side is for his last minute headed equaliser at Pride Park, against a side for whom he was a cult hero before joining SAFC and his embarrassed non celebration. Mint.
In defence the obvious first pick is Marcos Angeleri who only played three times for Sunderland. He failed to impress me on his full debut against Notts County in the F.A. Cup, although to be fair the whole side never got up to speed, losing 2-1. Apart from five minutes on New Years Day 2011, that was the only time I saw him in a Sunderland shirt. He spent most of his contract back in South America having his injuries seen to. Accusations of racism against Steve Bruce earns him a place in the “Ugly Squad”. He accused the manager of not picking him because of his nationality, a charge Bruce of course denied. Mind you he was happy to use a similar if slightly diluted argument himself after being sacked, citing his Geordie roots as the reason fans turned against him leading to his own dismissal.
Next I’ve gone for Thomas Helmer who should have been a great signing. An established international and World Cup winner, Helmer was a free transfer who commanded a big salary. Booked on his debut against Leeds in the opening game of the 1999 season, he made his only home appearance when he replaced Steve Bould in the next game against Arsenal. And that was it – high earner, no reward is enough to get him into this side.
Partnering Helmer at the back is 2003 loan signing Talal El Kakouri. The Moroccan managed 8 starts and 2 yellow cards in his time at the club and featured in 9 defeats, including the 0-1 FA Cup loss to Watford, when he came off the bench to replace Julio Arca. A few years later, playing for Charlton, he was booked for “simulation” against Aston Villa and when he went down like the proverbial sack of spuds against Reading, their manager Steve Coppell accused him of cheating, though he had been headbutted.
The left back spot goes to Jan Eriksson. Eriksson made but a single appearance in 1996 and not only did he get booked but it was his deflection which sent Savo Milosovec’s shot past a hapless Lionel Perez in a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park.
And so to midfield. Although born in London, I’ve stretched the rules a bit so I can include Jamaican international Jamie Lawrence who managed 4 games with The Lads. Picked up by Terry Butcher, Lawrence had served two years of a four stretch for armed robbery when Butcher spotted him playing for Cowes Sports on the Isle of Wight, who themselves had seen him playing for the Parkhurst Prison XI. Currently still playing for Tooting and Mitcham of the Isthmian League Lawrence is a winger going straight. Is that what we really want to see?
Claudio Marangoni was our first significant overseas signing. An Argentinean international who never settled on Wearside after signing in 1979, his contract was terminated the following season. Sound familiar? However Marangoni did manage to score three times in his 21 appearances.
Arnau Riera started just once for Sunderland. Having made his debut as a substitute against Southend United in 2006, he made the starting line up for the next game, a League Cup tie against Bury where he managed to get himself sent off after only 4 minutes. Loaned out to Southend and Falkirk his entire career for the Black Cats lasted just thirty nine minutes.
I can’t leave out El Hadji Diouf! Signed from Bolton for £2.63 million, manager Roy Keane said “we are happy to have a player that the opposition love to hate.” Diouf has been involved in a number of unsavoury incidents throughout his career and his time at Sunderland came to an end when Ricky Sbragia sold him to Blackburn Rovers, just three days after he allegedly threatened to have Anton Ferdinand “done over.”
The attacking “threat” (El Hadji Diouf notwithstanding) comes from Asamoah Gyan and Milton Nunez. Here are two contrasting characters.
Gyan earns his place for the acrimonious way in which he left the club. According to Steve Bruce the £13 million striker had pledged his commitment to the team days before making it clear he wanted to move for the big money available in the Middle East. Gyan had proved to be a useful goalscorer in his first season at Sunderland but to those of us in the stands it seemed obvious that his performances were substandard at the beginning of the following campaign. He got his wish and we got Nicklas Bendtner.
Finally Milton “Tyson” Nunez. Surely the smallest ever player to represent The Black Cats, listed in “All The Lads” as being 5’ 5” but I am convinced he was even smaller. The apocryphal story is that Peter Reid signed him in error, thinking he was a different Nunez altogether from the one he had in mind. Whatever the truth it ranks alongside Graeme Souness signing George Weah’s cousin as a bad piece of business. He only played 15 minutes at the Stadium of Light and 30 at Luton in the Worthington Cup yet I remember him vividly and could have sworn he played more.
Unlike my other two teams this one has a substitute and there can only be one candidate. Thomas Hauser signed in 1988, scored 11 goals in 67 appearances but as he was seen on the bench so many times our German sub earned the nickname “U Boat”.
So there you have it, my Good, Bad and Ugly teams of imports. No place for injury prone John Mensah, the cultured Eric Roy or the self proclaimed “Greatest Footballer in the World” Nicklas Bendtner whose pizza parlour escapades and nights out with Lee Cattermole made him a contender for the “Ugly Squad”. No place either for Patrick Mboma , Sulley Muntari, Benjani, Louis Saha, Dwight Yorke, Lorik Cana, David Bellion, Tom Peeters, Rada Prica, Tobias Hysen, Anthony Le Tallec, Cristian Riveros and others I’ve doubtless forgotten.
The summer activity has me looking forward to the new season with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Let’s just hope the new boys in the freshened up squad adapt quickly to the English game and produce some entertaining football for us. Who knows they may even bring out the best in the players still at the club who so disappointed us last year. Fingers crossed.
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