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Connection Section - Norwich City and Sunderland.

It may come as a surprise to some that there are more links between Sunderland AFC and Norwich City FC than you think. You only have to look at the current coaching staff at Sunderland for further evidence of this.

Martin O’Neill is no stranger the dugout areas of both clubs. After five very successful years at Wycombe Wanderers, MON (who back then was still a spring chicken in management terms) left his post with the Chairboys to take up a position at Norwich, becoming their gaffer in June 1995. If MON was ever going to erase a period of his managerial career from the record books it would probably be his time at Carrow Road – he left in December of the same year having fell out with the chairman over the potential signing of Dean Windass from Hull City.

It was at Norwich that O’Neill became friends with Steve Walford - a defender hailing from Highgate, North London – and they have remained close allies to this day. Walford spent three years at Carrow Road as a player and has remained at MON’s side throughout his management career. Walford is currently the first team coach at Sunderland and can be seen delivering his instructions from the touchline alongside the Northern Irishman, usually sporting a fetching pair of three-quarter length trousers.

Oooh I say.

Whilst we are on the subject of managers and backroom staff, it is a good opportunity to mention another link between the two sides that still remains within football. Alan Durban, who managed Sunderland for three years during the early 1980s, is currently a scout for Norwich and still gets up and down the country watching games for the Canaries with his 72nd birthday approaching. A little known fact for you all – it was Alan Durban that introduced Sky Sports presenter David Jones to Sunderland AFC and Jones has remained a fan of the club ever since his youth, despite hailing from Stokesley (I know this as a fact as Jones told me on twitter once. FWEND, TWITTER FWEND).

When Sunderland faced off with the Norfolk side in the 1985 football league cup final, former black cats’ manager Steve Bruce was named man of the match as the Canaries went on to break the hearts of thousands of Mackems nationwide, with a Gordon Chisholm own goal the only strike between the sides as Norwich won the tie 1-0. At the heart of everything that day, Bruce went on to spend another two years with the club before moving on to Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, where he became a club legend. Bruce, now in charge of Championship side Hull City, was Sunderland manager from the summer of 2009 right up until he was sacked in November 2011.

One of Bruce’s first signings when he joined Sunderland was Hull City defender Michael Turner, who now plies his trade at Carrow Road. Turner, a no-nonsense centre half, left Sunderland to the surprise of many in the summer to join up with Chris Hughton’s side and has endured a stop/start period at the club since arriving. He’s expected to start the game on Sunday.

Another of Bruce’s signings when at Sunderland has history with the yellows. Titus Bramble, who still somehow manages to get on the pitch every week under Martin O’Neill, played a number of games for Norwich as a schoolboy before signing on for local rivals Ipswich Town, where he spent a number of years at the beginning of his career.

Just like Bramble, a number of players that have come through both doors have unsuccessfully trialled at both clubs too. Michael Bridges spent a week at the Colney training centre upon his release from Hull City in 2009 but was not able to impress then manager Bryan Gunn enough to win a contract. Craig Russell and Nicky Summerbee traded places when Sunderland swapped Russell + £1,000,000 for the son of Mike in 1997 with Manchester City – and both players have spent time on trial with the Canaries at some point during their playing careers. Russell is currently a masseur at Sunderland.

Jamie Cureton has had two spells with Norwich during his career and it was in the summer of 2004 that Mick McCarthy took the striker on trial after his release from Korean club Busan I’Park, where he had a disappointing spell, failing to settle at the East Asian club – alas, he didn’t do enough to impress McCarthy and instead signed for Queens Park Rangers.

After appearing in the feature length movie “One Night In Stevie”, the Sunderland careers of both Ben Alnwick and Chris Brown curtailed somewhat and they found themselves out of the door fairly rapidly having suffered the wrath of Roy Keane. Brown left his native Wearside to join up with Norwich in 2007 and had a terrible period there before leaving a year later to sign up for Preston North End.

Alnwick’s career has similarly gone down the pan since leaving Sunderland, despite showing so much promise as a young goalkeeper. It would be only fair to credit him with some brilliant performances towards the end of the 04/05 season to ensure Sunderland secured promotion to the Premier League. He was edged out of the number one jersey by Kelvin Davis in the following season and barely played another game before leaving under a cloud to join Tottenham Hotspur in 2007. He went on to have a number of sporadic loan moves around the country and found himself at Norwich in 2009, where his loan spell was cut short to three games after suffering a hip injury which sent him back to White Hart Lane rather frustratingly.

Kevin Cooper. Now there is a name that rolls straight off the tongue when reminiscing some of the greatest ever loan signings to have been made by Sunderland AFC. When Cooper arrived on loan at Sunderland from Wolverhampton Wanderers in early 2004 the footballing world stood still. Cooper went on to make a momentous impact on Wearside in his one appearance as a substitute before departing back to the midlands club. Women cried, children screamed, Blokes wore “I love you Kevin” T shirts and a minutes silence was held when he left the club; his contribution shall never be forgotten.

He eventually roc ked up a few weeks later at Norwich, again as a loanee, where his spell was slightly more successful, claiming a league winner’s medal as the Canaries went on to win promotion to the Premier League in 2004 – Sunderland, alternatively, were defeated by Crystal Palace in the semi-finals of the play offs that season. Who knows what might have happened if Kevin Cooper had spent the rest of the season on Wearside as opposed to Norfolk? We’d probably be world champions right now.

When Sunderland manager Niall Quinn signed backup goalkeeper Darren Ward from Norwich in August 2006, very few of us would have expected him to have played such a huge part in that season as we went on to win the league, but he did. Ward was brought in as experienced cover for Ben Alnwick but dislodged the youngster from the number one position in October of that year and never looked back, staking his claim as the best goalkeeper in the squad as we stormed to the top of the table under new boss Roy Keane. Ward kept numerous clean sheets and was one of the top performers for the side throughout the season, making a particularly class save in the home draw with Southampton in November 2006. George Burley, then the Saints boss, described the save as something “Gordon Banks would have produced”.

Ward eventually lost his place in the side when Craig Gordon was signed from Hearts and he saw out the remainder of his career with the club before retiring in 2009.

Another famous name to have been traded between the two clubs is Gary Rowell. I don’t really have to explain to you what Rowell did at Sunderland AFC but his time at Carrow Road was slightly less notable. Rowell was sold on to the Canaries in 1984 by then manager Len Ashurst, where he spent just a season before moving back up north to Middlesbrough FC the following season.

One of Rowell’s Sunderland team mates soon followed him out of the door to Norwich in 1986 when fan’s favourite Shaun Elliott moved south to join up with the Yellows. Elliott, a former Sunderland captain, led his side all the way to that Milk cup final in 1985 before missing out on the last game through suspension – some might say him not being included that day was a contributing factor in the Mackems not winning the trophy.

Like Rowell, Elliott didn’t last long at Norwich before he was moved along to Blackpool FC in 1988, where he spent two seasons as a first choice defender. In what is probably his most noteworthy achievement in his career, Elliott was named the 19th best defender to ever have hailed from the North by the Sunday Sun in 2011. Well done Shaun.

Another of the players that were part of the side that went on to play Norwich in the cup final of 1985 also played for both during his career. David Hodgson, best known for his time at Middlesbrough, Liverpool and as manager of Darlington FC, was signed in 1984 by the Mackems in a bid to bring more goals to the side but his spell here was a disappointing one and he was moved on to Norwich two seasons later in 1986, where he enjoyed a similarly poor spell.

Hold on…. Lee Power. Now there’s a player. He made three appearances on loan from Norwich in 1993. Despite his name having superb potential headlines-wise, his talent was not fully appreciated and he was sent back to his parent club where he became a bit-part squad player until leaving a few seasons later.

There have been many other names to have crossed into both territories – Calum Davenport. Stephen Elliott. David Healy. Carl Robinson. Chris Woods. None, however, could have pole-vaulted across from Norwich to Sunderland quite like Dickson “Big Dick” Etuhu did.

Etuhu, a six foot odd mountain of a man, was signed by Roy Keane in 2007 in a bid to bring power to the heart of the Sunderland midfield. Despite offering some promise, Etuhu couldn’t hold down a place in the side and was sold the following summer to Fulham, where he reached a career high and played in a UEFA Cup Final for the Cottagers in 2010.

Gavin Henderson

Follow me on twitter - @GavinSAFC

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