The Top Ten: SAFC's Strangest Transfer Tales

even got my own logo and everything!

Welcome one and all to yet another brand spanking new feature for the upcoming new season here on Roker Report. Man are we spoiling you with the content we've got lined up. Each week I'll be looking at a different SAFC based topic, trend or who knows what and breaking it down into a top ten list. A bit like the charts, but with less rubbish like N-Dubz and that David Guetta chap.

With the transfer window well under way now we thought what better time to look at SAFC's transfer dealings over the years, but not the usual "SAFC's Best Signings EVER" as we've all read that kinda thing a hundred times or more. So instead join me as we look at my favourite deals that make up the top ten strange transfer tales that Sunderland have been embroiled in.

Number 10: Milton Nunez

Ok, lets get this one over and done with right off the bat. This is the kind of thing that could only happen to SAFC. Old Milton was a £1.5m signing, joining the Black Cats in 2000. I believe it was a home game against Leicester City when we were first introduced to Nunez. With the anticipation whipped up by the PA out came our new hero... all 5'5'' of him as he proceeded to complete a "lap of honour" whilst carrying out a strange shadow boxing type routine to the bemused fans, if they weren't already doubled up on the floor with laughter.

Whilst I certainly got £1.5m worth of entertainment that day, Reid, or more likely the board, were not too impressed. Rumour's spread that we had signed the lad based on the strength of VHS tapes alone or that we had signed the wrong player all together turned out to be not too far from the truth. It turned out that Nunez's club had been more than a little economical with the truth regarding their players credentials. Whilst SAFC believed they were signing a player from Uruguayan top flight side Nacional Montevideo it actually turned out that Nunez was playing for third division Uruguay Montevideo. D'oh.

The club were so embarrassed by the situation that they took the matter to the courts for damages only to reach an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with Nunez's club and agent, presumably to bring an end to the saga before inviting any further embarrassment from the press.

Number Nine: Rade Prica

Oh Rade, it all started so well. Kind of anyway. Despite having the on field presence of the proverbial headless chicken the £2m Swede made a goal scoring start to his Sunderland career and a decent finish it was too. In fact Prica could have had two had he not practically caught the ball before hitting the net for his second.

It was all downhill from then on for the lad really. Subbed on for an injured Kieran Richardson with just seven minutes played at Anfield in a 3-0 defeat, Prica had another chance to show what he was made of. He did and was promptly subbed off after fifty-six minutes. The ultimate insult for any footballer.

Prica never started a game whilst on Wearside and was shipped off to the first club that showed any interest, Rosenborg.

Number Eight: Thomas Helmer

Lets not beat around the bush, Helmer had been there, done that and won the medals with Bayern Munich during the 1990's and played alongside some of the greatest defenders to grace the game at that time; Lothar Matthaus and Markus Babbel. So when the German warhorse chose newly promoted Sunderland as the club to join to see out his career I was a happy lad, even if Thomas' first team chances were limited the experience and knowledge he would bring to the club would be worth his wages alone.

Well not if Bobby Saxton and the training staff were to have their way, allegedly. As the rumour goes, Helmer was far from impressed with the training methods installed by the club and the drinking culture that was passed off as team bonding. 

So rather than learn from one of the greats he was loaned to Champions League side Hertha Berlin, before the club bought him out of his contract and he hung up his boots. Rather a sad end to a successful career.

Number Seven: Gareth Hall

I will make no excuses for making my mate Gareth part of this list. The man that robbed my childhood hero Dariusz Kubicki of his record breaking run of games. One can only presume that Reid lost a bet with this one. having originally joined Sunderland on loan in December of 1995, Hall made his debut as a substitute in a drab 0-0 draw at Leicester and even managed to get sent off. This was enough to convince Reid to make the deal permenant...

As if Chelsea hadn't taken the mick enough by actually getting £300k for this plank their fans then named him as their worst ever player in a poll. Great. The fans never took to Gareth, his style of play not helping matters and then the Kubicki incident just made matters worse. The Welshman was packed off on loan to Brentford before moving to Swindon where he captained the side to relegation. Hall's last stop was with Havant and Waterlooville, where he arguably found his level.

Number Six: Len Shackleton

The Clown Prince of Football is widely regarded and accepted as one of the greatest footballers of his time, an original superstar who played the game purely to entertain the crowds. Whilst the Newcastle hierarchy were not impressed with Shack's brand of football, with their then captain Joe Harvey being quoted as saying "Newcastle would never win anything with him in the team", their loss was to be Sunderland's gain, but not before the now infamous "Horse Auction Transfer"

Sealed bids were received for the much heralded Len and Sunderland were to come out victorious with their £20,050 bid, exactly £50 more than the nearest offer. 

The rest, as they say, his history as Shackleton wrote himself into Sunderland folklore forever more.

Number Five: John Aldridge

A classic tale of what could have been. In 1984 Len Ashurst approached chairman Tom Cowie with a transfer target, a striker from Newport County with a mightily impressive goal scoring record that Ashurst believed could be a big success at Roker. 

Cowie refused to sanction the transfer stating that it was "too much for a fourth division striker" and Sunderland missed out as Aldridge moved to Oxford. 

Surprise, surprise Aldridge was a run away success with his new club before making a "big money" move to Liverpool in 1987. 

Number Four: William Mocquet

William, or Billy Rocket as some preferred to call him, joined Sunderland during Quinny's brief and altogether forgetable tenure as gaffer and this ill advised transfer is probably proof that the great man is human after all. Despite saying all the right things in the press when Roy took over, "MOCQUET IS KEANE TO IMPRESS" being my favourite headline, the French winger was packed off on loan to the likes of Rochdale and Bury before being released by the club without having made a single appearance for the Black Cats. Not even as a sub.

Perhaps poor William was just a victim of the turbulent world that was SAFC at the time of his signing or maybe he was just crap. However for having the indignity of having never even pulling on the red and white stripes is reason enough for him to figure in this list, a bizarre tale from start to finish.

Number Three: Chris Byrne

Ah who could forget the Chris Byrne saga. The talented midfielder had originally made a name for himself in the lower leagues as a late-comer to the game, not making his league debut until he was 22. Byrne had shown enough for Macclesfield to give him a contract in 1997 with Gil Prescott, a man known for his lower league knowledge, claiming Chris to be "the best player to have come out of the conference in fifteen years".

Here's where Sunderland step into the equation. Byrne's performances for Macclesfield were enough to convince Peter Reid to take a punt on the midfielder. It didn't take Chris long to make an impact on Wearside and he was part of the first team setup within weeks.

However he was also out of not only the first team picture but the club entirely within weeks after he was caught with a murder suspect hiding in his hotel room. The troubled but talented player made just eight starts on Wearside.

Number Two: Ronen Harazi

Possibly the greatest transfer saga of recent Sunderland history. As chronicled on the BBC Premier Passions documentary / swearathon Sunderland's pursuit of the Israeli was nothing secret. An agreement had been made for a £400,000 striker to join Peter Reid's struggling side.

However the hitman did not pass his medical. Nothing too out of the ordinary there you might say to yourself. Except for the fact that he failed because of a six inch metal rod that was barely holding his leg together which he failed to inform the club of. In fact if memory serves me right the fella could hardly walk!

That should have been that but the cripple took the matter to FIFA, demanding a £600,000 payout from Sunderland. Harazi claimed that: "I have seen two top specialists and they sure me that those injury problems are a thing of the past". Oh Ronen, you crazy cripple.

Number One: Phil Gray, Derek Ferguson, Andy Melville and Iain Rodgerson

After the previous nine transfer tales I knew I had to go out with a bang. Literally.

Cast your mind back to the summer of 1993. Terry Butcher desperately wanted to overhaul his Sunderland side and finally convinced Bob Murray to dip into the coffers and splash £2m on the above mentioned assortment of players. "Champion" thought Butcher, "we might finally be going somewhere here".

Butcher was right, but I doubt A&E was the destination he had in mind.

Following a pre-season testimonial with Middlesbrough the four new lads piled into Derek Ferguson's car for the journey home. In a bizarre turn of events Ferguson decided in his wisdom that the Highway Code has been wrong for all these years and went the wrong way around a roundabout. The inevitable crash put Gray and Rodgerson on the injury list for some time.

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