Another Top Ten: I fear it's all I'm good for!
Having looked back at some of the Club's Academy products last week, the tone of this week's Top Ten is far more sombre, as we list some of the worst players to have ever pulled on the Red and White. Of course we've already done some similar list, but how many could be classed truly as a clogger? Clogger transcends being just rubbish to being just a completely useless lump, where you or I genuinely might be able to do better.
The names that follow may omit players that more seasoned supporters would include but, regretfully, I am armed with two lots of record-breaking rubbish. So, here goes...
10. Rade Prica
One of Roy Keane's infamous buys, Rade Prica joined Sunderland in January 2008 for £2million as the Black Cats looked to stave off relegation from the Premier League.
Having scored a priceless debut goal at home to Birmingham City, Prica then proceeded to become one of the most unsynchronised footballers I've ever seen; at odds with his team-mates but more bizarrely, himself.
Prica endured the added humiliation of being substituted after initially coming on a substitute against Liverpool at Anfield, and was barely seen after that. The Swedish striker joined Rosenborg a year later and has since been rather prolific.
9. Nyron Nosworthy
Disclaimer: I liked Nyron, but he was a poor footballer.
It takes a special (read: terrible) kind of player to pass a ball back to your goalkeeper on the half-way line and see it roll towards the corner flag, but hey, that's what Nyron was about.
Cruyff turns on the edge of his own area, countless failed clearances but still managing a foraging comeback cameo down the right under Steve Bruce. He made for a decent centre-half for a spell under Roy Keane, where he was able to cut out the eccentricity and his partnership with the on-loan Jonny Evans simplified his role in defence, but his inclusion is merited overall.
8. Paul McShane
Now we're treading into the worst kind of clogger territory; the one that tries to make you believe he's actually a decent player.
Roy Keane crossed paths with Paul McShane at Manchester United, and whilst he was marching his Sunderland side up the Championship table. McShane played for promotion chasers West Bromwich Albion and having played rather well against us, and not forgetting the Old Trafford connection, it made him twice as likely to filter through Roy Keane's scouting network.
He joined the club in time for the pre-season tour to Ireland and he played well, but then a man-of-the-match performance where he and the aforementioned Noz shut out Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov on the first game back in the top flight duped us all. We thought we were onto something. Oh how wrong we were.
7. Steve Caldwell
Signed by Mick McCarthy from ‘them up the road', Caldwell was a young defender stepping into the void left by Joachim Bjorklund and Phil Babb who released at the end of the 2003/04 season.
His partnership with Gary Breen was the backbone upon which promotion was built, but the same duo fell to pieces once elevated into the Premier League. Despite that, he stuck around for a bit after suffering the humiliating 15 point season, until Roy Keane removed him as a captain on the basis that he ‘wasn't his type of captain'. Wasn't my type of defender, either.
6. Gareth Hall
Hall was the centre of a hotly-disputed argument in Roker Report HQ this week; not because he didn't deserve a mention, but because he had ousted Dariusz kubicki from the first team (you can chalk that one up to the antagonising Michael Graham).
Hall is a player that was ‘just before my time', but is a name that crops up in SAFC folklore as one of the worst players in his position.
5. Brett Angell
Okay, I'll hold my hands up here - I have never seen any of Brett Angell's Sunderland performances. So here is where man in command Simon Walsh reliably informs me he was garbage (a ‘festering heap of it with no place on a football pitch' was his succinct input).
Going by stats alone is difficult, but Angell was a mid-season signing upon much hope was placed in firing the club to promotion. Angell failed to score in 10 league games - although he did find the net against Preston in the League Cup - and promotion was achieved in spite of his poor form. It took three loan spells to eventually get rid of him; Angell returned to Stockport and dropping down the leagues allowed him to start scoring again.
4. Tore Andre Flo
What, the disastrous record signing doesn't get a podium finish? ‘Fraid not, but he‘s close enough.
As David Boyle has said on these pages, Flo was Peter Reid's ‘all-in' call in the summer of 2002. The Premier League called his bluff spectacularly. Flo, although well over 6ft, was not Niall Quinn and as such struggled to fit in with Sunderland's style of play. A rare goal, and win, that season came at White Hart Line but as the season came to a close Flo was overlooked by both of Reid's successors - Howard Wilkinson and Mick McCarthy.
Sunderland cut their losses the following season, allowing Flo to join Italian side Siena.
3. Jon Stead
Another off the ‘he played good against us, why don't we buy him' list. Sunderland first crossed paths with Jon Stead when he was a gangly, teenage striker at Huddersfield who dumped us out of the League Cup. McCarthy took note, and having missed out on him originally as he joined Blackburn Rovers and played his part in keeping them up with a run of goals, McCarthy returned with a £1.8m bid in the summer. It was accepted.
Stead scored once as the Lads broke their own record of ineptitude that season. The following year his goal in a 3-1 defeat away to Southend was barely celebrated - a damning indictment of the rut that the club were in at the time.
2. Jeff Whitley
I think the only thing worse than his passing ability or his mis-timed tackles was that penalty.
Whitley was deployed by Mick McCarthy as some sort of holding midfielder after initially impressing on trial at the tail-end of the 19 point season aka 2002-03. Frustratingly, he was a fixture in the side that finished third, and then first, under McCarthy before being transfer listed upon achieving promotion.
1. Andy Gray
And so we come to the ‘Ayatollah Of Awful' - Andy Gray.
We all know that Mic Mac had to scramble round for signings that year, due to Bob Murray giving him the Premier League equivalent of two quid to gan down the shop for sweets, but fetching Gray back wasn't going to help anyone. Like Prica, Gray scored on his debut, but then Darren Bent proceeded to show us what we could have had if we had used that sweet money on something more fulfilling - a sausage roll, perhaps?
With Gray leading the line, Sunderland's hopes of survival - much like your teeth after too many sweets kids - began to rot. That strike at the Stadium of Light on the opening day of the season was his only one, and both player and club whimpered back into the second tier.