Malcolm Dawson writes…..with the seemingly never ending issue of Brexit, the prorogation of Parliament and the confusing and contradictory outpourings of the major political parties and politicians I decided to take a sideways look at the whole business of leave or remain by comparing the contributions that EU citizens have made to the cause of Sunderland AFC, in the hope it would simplify my thinking.
Yesterday, I made the case for the Remain campaign and in case you missed it you can find it here (and hopefully this will take you there and not some dodgy Turkish escort site!).
Today I shall be looking at some of those players whose time on Wearside was less effective and give weight to the argument that freedom of movement is not always desirable – unless it means moving them on.
Initially I did think that this was going to be an easier task than choosing a team of individuals who had made a positive impact in the club’s history but realised quite quickly that my self imposed criteria, one of which was that I had had to see them play in a Sunderland shirt had actually restricted my options.
For instance, the first name that sprung to mind was that of Arnau Riera. Signed by Niall Quinn, Arnau made his first appearance from the bench at Southend, a game I didn’t go to, then in a League Cup tie away to Bury, his only start, he got himself sent off after only three minutes. I wasn’t at that one either. Then in came Roy Keane and out went the young graduate of Barcelona who had grown up with Lionel Messi and Xavi, so that was an obvious choice rejected.
But undaunted I have set about trawling the memory banks and come up with the following side, set up in a 4-4-2 system with a full bench of 7 subs.
GK. This was my most problematical selection. There were two obvious candidates. Mika and Keiran Westwood.
However, whilst I am pretty sure I saw Mika play for the U23s at the Stadium of Light in a game where he made two howlers, I never saw him play for the senior team so I’ve ruled him out. So Westwood it had to be. After all he had played for the Republic of Ireland, which makes him an EU citizen, until I discovered that he had been born in Liverpool and qualified for Ireland owing to the fact that he liked a pint of Guinness, listened to The Corrs and once read Roddy Doyle’s “Barrytown Trilogy.”
So it was back to the drawing board and a bit reluctantly I’ve gone for Jurgen Macho.
The Austrian was a decent enough keeper, though he lacked a bit of beef as they say and had a propensity to punch rather than catch (some would say flap at) high balls. Macho joined us in the year 2000, from First Vienna as back up to Tommy Sorensen and made a total of 7 appearances in his first season, two as a sub. He only played 4 times the next season but in his third and final year, before moving to Chelsea he actually started 15 times and also came off the subs’ bench for a third time in his Sunderland career. Of the EU nationals I’ve seen play in goal for Sunderland (I never saw either of Edwin Zoetebier’s two appearances either) he would have to be my choice between the sticks for the Brexiteers XI.
RB Considering we finally ended up in 14th spot in the Premiership in season 2013/14 (but only after winning five of our last six league games) and we got to Wembley in the League Cup, we had a number of poor signings that pre-season. One of those Valentin Roberge is my selection on the right side of the back 4. Coming on a free from Portuguese side Maratimo, I actually thought he looked quite a classy player whenever I saw him but he didn’t really coupé la moutarde as the French never say. He was quite a cultured player but his style didn’t really seemed suited to the English game and after a mere 13 appearances he went back to his native France on loan to Reims.
CB There was a lot of competition for the back 4 positions but my two centre backs are Thomas Helmer and Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
Thomas Helmer – capped 68 times by Germany and a member of the winning side of Euro 96 came to Sunderland in 1999, brought in by Peter Reid to cement our place back in the top flight. He managed all of two games – a 0-0 at home to Arsenal and a 2-1 away win at Elland Road. I was at both of those games but never saw Helmer again. Did Peter Reid not rate him? Was he suffering from homesickness or couldn’t he face the constant singing of the The Dambusters March by opposing fans? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. He came on a free but on massive wages and returned to Germany, on loan to Hertha Berlin, before we’d all linked hands and sung Auld Lang Syne to celebrate the new millennium a year too early.
Do you remember Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the big Greek centre back who came to us on loan from Wolfsburg?
No? Well I do – just. He played a total of four games for us and I know I saw him play but I can’t for the life of me recall who our opponents were. I have vague memories of a lumbering hulk with long hair who looked clumsy on the ball but that’s about it. The main centre back pairing that season was John O’Shea and Titus Bramble with Carlos Cuellar ahead of Kyrgiakos, which perhaps indicates just how much managers Martin O’Neill and Paulo di Canio rated him but like so many on this list he played several times for his country as well as at the highest level in European competitions with Glasgow Rangers. Maybe we just never got to see the real deal.
LB has to be Andreas Dossena. Dossena came to us on a free from Napoli, via a loan spell at Palermo. The Italian could have become a cult figure after making his debut in a 2-1 victory at Sid James’ Park but in only his second game, at Hull City, he was sent off for a needless stamp in the 6th minute of first half stoppage time. Not only was that an act of pure stupidity in itself, being as it was out by the touchline in the opposition’s half with the ref just about to blow for the break, but we were already a goal down thanks to a Carlos Cuellar OG and a man light already courtesy of an idiotic lunging tackle from Barry Lee Cattermole not long before. It was a credit to the nine men still on the pitch that we finished that game without conceding another goal and unlucky in fact not to have got at least a point.
As before the competition is healthy for the midfield berths but my selection lines up like this: Carsten Fredgaard, Jason Denayer, Christian Bassila, Charias Mavrias.