The fixtures are piling up like court cases involving Sunderland players at the moment and next on the agenda is a trip to the Hawthorns for Martin O'Neill's men. The lads will be in high spirits and confidence must be an at all time high following the impressive performance against Arsenal last time out. Couple this with the Baggies' home form and there is good reason to be confident going in to the tie.
As part of the usual build-up here on Roker Report its time to showcase a "Cult Hero" who represented both sides and this week it is a man with undoubtedly the greatest name in football history... Bernt Haas.The unfortunately named Swiss fullback was born in Vienna in April of 1978 and began his career with Grasshopper Club Zurich, signing his professional papers in 1994. Haas spent seven seasons with the side
who won the Swiss Championship four times and enjoyed two Champions League campaigns.
In August of 2001 Haas made the move to the British Isles and was snapped by Peter Reid for a sum of around £800,000. The pacey right-back was seen to be the ideal permanent replacement for the recently departed fan-favourite Chris Makin following a brief cameo appearance from loanee Patrice Carteron. Similarities between the two could quite easily be drawn as both were efficient with their passing and strong in a tackle, although I don't think Makin can list Armani as a former employee unlike his Swiss counterpart. Although how Bernt stacks up against the current SAFC pin-up and all round legend Marcos Angeleri is up for debate, if you're into that kind of thing.
Haas was installed as the first choice right-back following his arrival and made twenty-seven league appearances in the term where Sunderland failed to live up to the expectations brought about by back-to-back seventh place finishes and narrowly avoided relegation on the final day of the season.
The defender was involved in a brief moment of controversy at Anfield that season when he was the "victim" of a tackle from Dietmar Hamann that was deemed worthy of a red card from the referee. Cue stand-in Liverpool manager losing his cool and instigating a touchline bust-up with the Swiss International after the game insistent that Haas had reacted poorly to the challenge in order to get the German midfielder sent off. Whilst replays did backup Thompson's accusations, the fact still stands that he is a big nosed, biased muppet, so there was
little sympathy heading in his direction.
Haas' form, much like Sunderland's in general, took a nosedive in the second half of the season and along with some injury problems his future with the club was in doubt as he was missing for the final eight games. Haas never quite lived up to his billing as the successor to Chris Makin and it was apparent he wasn't cut out for the top
flight. During the post season Haas was unsurprisingly made available for transfer by Reid along with Stefan Schwarz, Lilian Laslandes, Stanislav Varga and Jurgen Macho as the Sunderland boss looked for fresh ideas.
Bernt was thrown an olive branch from his native Switzerland in the shape of FC Basel who was even able to offer the Sunderland misfit Champions League football. Haas obviously jumped at the chance to escape his Sunderland exile and spent the 2002/03 season back in the Swiss Super League.
Haas' time in England was not over just yet however as upon returning to the North East following his loan spell with Basel, Saturday's opponents West Brom showed an interest. Sunderland had just been relegated from the top flight and was desperate to clear some of their burgeoning wage bill. After ironing out some contractual issues a
£400,000 deal was completed in July of 2003.
The right-back was a firm fixture in the West Brom side which won promotion to the Premier League that year and delighted the Albion fans with a goal in the league cup against Manchester United which helped to earn his side a famous 2-0 win having also found the back of the net against Brentford in the previous round. It is from this point
on however that the Bernt Haas story takes more than a little of a turn for the worse.
Haas was named in the Switzerland squad for the Euro 2004 tournament, a competition which saw the Swiss meet England in the group stages. The match itself was not one that Haas will remember fondly however as with England already a goal to the good he was subsequently booked for fouls on Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole which earned him an early bath. England went on to comfortably win the game 3-0 with the result hastening the Swiss' demise in the competition.
His pre-season with WBA didn't get much better either. A fairly routine workout of a game against Bristol City should have posed the International right-back no problems; it was just a friendly after all, the usual pre-season workout... Bernt lasted just ten minutes having been torn to shreds by Leroy Lita. Never a good sign.
Haas managed to recover from the ignominy suffered at Ashton Gate and even managed to make his way back into the West Brom side, although he was far from a regular starter and Bryan Robson's arrival seemed to very much prompt that his time at the Hawthornes was up. This may be where you would expect Bernt's story to run out of steam, for him to leave West Brom and slip down a division or two in a foreign league before retiring and becoming a car salesman. Come on, that would be far too boring.
Good old Bernt ended his time in the English Leagues in style. Well, kind of anyway. Following the club's Christmas party Haas may have had one too many halves of lager and decided to log on to one of the internet's more dubious websites and pay a busty blonde one-hundred quid for a "show". Unfortunately for Haas it turned out the girl in
question's boyfriend was a West Brom fan... Haas' Leslie Grantham impersonation earned him a torn up contract and a move to French outfit Bastia.
Let's just hope that Angeleri isn't feeling a little frisky with a laptop to hand with the masses of spare time he has available. Then again it would make for a good story! Go for it Marcos!