The Top Ten: SAFC Bargain Basement Signings

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Have we all awoken from the snoozefest that was Saturday afternoon yet? I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so bored at a game of football. Anyway rather than dwell on that result it is time once again to hack off Michael Graham with a top ten plucked from the darkest recesses of my tiny brain! This week I have decided to have a look at SAFC’s best bargain buys over the years, some old, some new but all superb signings for less than the price of Marcos Angeleri. Oh Marcos…

Straight in at number ten...

10. Dariusz Kubicki - £100,000

We’ll get this one out of the way. I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a huge Kubicki fan. The classy Pole was initially a loan signing from Aston Villa in March of 1994 before SAFC made the deal permanent at the end
of the season for the paltry sum of £100,000. One-hundred and twenty four consecutive appearances later Dariusz had become a firm favourite with the Roker Park crowd, although seemingly not the gaffer Peter
Reid as he was unceremoniously dropped just one game short of breaking George Mullhall’s post war appearance record in favour of Gareth Hall…

9. John Kay - £22,500

Another fullback makes the list, this time a more rugged and tough tackling fellow by the name of John Kay. The Tractor, a nickname earned following a particularly robust tackle on a Leeds player to which their physio commented “he looked like he’d been run down by a combine harvester”, was a £22,500 signing from Wimbledon in 1987. John would go on to terrorise opposition wingers and delight the Sunderland fans for nearly a decade and giving us all that iconic moment when, following a broken leg at Roker, the gutsy defender sat bolt upright on the stretcher and proceeded to “row” himself off the pitch.

8. Thomas Sorensen - £510,000

Whilst Sorensen joined Sunderland in the summer of 1998 as a relative unknown it did not take the Dane long to establish himself as one of the most consistent goalkeepers to represent the club in years. Thomas’ immediate impact saw him keep an incredible 29 clean sheets as SAFC ran away with the league and were promoted back to the Premiership as champions. Tommy would go on to make nearly two-hundred
appearances for The Black Cats, a memorable penalty save in some meaningless fixture and only left the club following relegation and financial concern for the club. Just over half a million quid for five great years service? A decent deal in anyone’s book.

7. Dave Watson - £100,000

Watson originally joined SAFC from Rotherham based on his form as a centre forward, particularly dangerous with his head from corners. He carried on his goal scoring exploits during his first season at Roker Park finishing up as the club’s top scorer with fifteen goals. The following season Bob Stokoe saw fit to instil Watson as a centre half alongside Richie Pitt and he became an integral part of the side which
famously won the FA Cup. Watson’s performance even earned him a belated call up to the England squad. He also had epic sideburns.

6. Nicky Summerbee - £1m + Craig Russell

I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine. I wasn’t Summerbee’s biggest fan following his move to Sunderland in 1997. It had nothing to do with Nicky, in fairness I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I was a big Craig Russell fan as a youngster and was sad to see him leave as part of the deal to bring Nicky to Wearside. In hindsight, what a bloody great deal that was! Summerbee would become fundamental to the style of play Sunderland tried to showcase and had one of the most accurate crosses of the ball on him you are ever likely to see. Unfortunately Nicky was to fall foul of Reidy’s wrath and found himself frozen out of the Sunderland setup, a sad end to an exciting spell.

5. Ian Porterfield - £45,000

A player that became synonymous with SAFC. Originally signed from Raith Rovers as a replacement for Jim Baxter for just £45,000, Ian would go on to have a ten year spell on Wearside and become an all time great thanks to his left footed shot at Wembley in May of 1973. As well as being an accomplished midfielder Porterfield would also go on to have a very reputable managerial career which took him to the furthest corners of the globe. A true great who is sadly missed.

4. Charlie Hurley - £20,000

Hurley’s career at Roker Park which would see him earn many plaudits including being voted the Player of the Century by the Sunderland fans began in 1957 as a £20,000 signing from Millwall and continued for
over a decade. Hurley was such a classy, towering defender that he earned the nickname “The King” and his exploits have become something of legend, with the older generation that were lucky enough to witness the great man play with their own eyes passing on their tales to the new generation of Sunderland fans. For example I’ve heard many a time stories of Charlie striding down the pitch to attack a corner to a roar of expectation from the stands. £20,000 was and still is pennies when you consider the sheer influence Hurley has had on the club.

3. Kevin Phillips - £350,000

Much like Hurley was the hero for his generation, Kevin Phillips proved to be the name every lad wanted on the back of their shirt at the turn of the new millennium. As a £350,000 signing following the club’s relegation from the Premier League, Phillips was a relative unknown and hardly filled the fans’ with excitement. How wrong we all were. Phillips’ goal ratio whilst with the club was staggering, better than a goal every two games and managed thirty goals in Sunderland’s 1999/2000 Premier League campaign, a record which saw him pick up the European Golden Boot. Not bad for a lad that had been playing non-league football just a couple of years before joining SAFC.

2. Marco Gabbiadini - £80,000

Before Kevin Phillips there was another popular striker who reached legendary status at Roker Park in the late 1980’s. Marco was a bargain £80,000 signing from York City in 1987 as Denis Smith saw him as the perfect signing to grab the goals that would fire SAFC out of the Third Division - he was right. Forming a lethal partnership with Eric Gates, Gabbiadini was as reliable a forward as you could wish for, boasting a record of a goal almost every two games. Marco was lightning quick, strong and had superb positional awareness in the box, which all added up to him becoming a massive favourite with the fans at the time - a superb signing.

1. Niall Quinn - £1.3m

Niall joined SAFC from Manchester City in August of 1996 for a then club record £1.3m. Quinn’s City career had been patchy to say the least, hampered by injury, an unfortunate trait that he brought with him to Roker Park as he was quickly struck down with another serious knee injury. However, upon his return to fitness and the arrival of Kevin Phillips, Niall’s swansong really got going, in fact he would go on to play the best football of his career. Quinn was always a big favourite with the fans and his reputation was further strengthened as he led a consortium which would ultimately seal a deal to buy SAFC in 2006. Niall has become one of the most important figures in recent Sunderland history and is now responsible for leading the international development of the club and I cannot think of a better person for the job. £1.3m is an absolute steal for the impact that this tall likeable Irishman has had on our little old club and I for one can't thank him enough.

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