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Top Ten: SAFC's Most Disappointing Departures

Where does Asamoah Gyan's departure rank on our list? Take a look and find out if it even features...
Where does Asamoah Gyan's departure rank on our list? Take a look and find out if it even features...

Hello folks. With Asamoah Gyan's departure finally confirmed, I thought I'd take a look at some players who have left our club in disappointing scenarios, whether it be through injury, mitigating circumstances, or something seemingly more sinister.

Sound a bit confusing? All will become clear soon enough...

10. Brian Howard Clough

On a bitterly cold Boxing Day in 1962, football lost arguably one of its finest centre forwards. Some have said that Sunderland's game against Bury should never have gone ahead, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it's easy to forget just how good 'Cloughie' was.

Signed for just £55,000 in 1961, when the Middlesbrough board finally gave in to Clough's requests, he went on to score 54 goals in only 61 games for the lads, boasting one of the finest goals-to-games ratios of all time during that period.

However, a collision with Bury goalkeeper Chris Harker on that fateful day saw the great frontman suffer tears to his medial and crutiate ligaments, and in those days, that pretty much spelled the end. Despite making a come back no sooner than two years down the line, Clough only managed a further three games before having to make the painful decision to pack the game he loved in.

Cloughie will always go down in history as one of football's finest, and it truly was a disappointment to every Sunderland fan that he had to hang up his boots, and that, of course, later down the line, he never returned to manage the lads either.

9. Michael Bridges

Everyone likes a local lad coming good. Michael Bridges was a hit for Sunderland, after progressing through the academy, 'Stickman' bagged 21 goals in his 92 games for the club, providing more than able back up to the behemoth that was the partnership between Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn.

A popular player, who picked up three Championship medals with the club, and featured in Premier Passions, Bridges had a falling out with Peter Reid about agents, and everything that came with them. Unfortunately, once the disagreement had happened, there was no way back for the Shields striker, and he went on to star for Leeds for the next few years instead.

Read more from Michael in our interview with him by clicking here.

8. Paul Bracewell

There are only so many modern 'legends' with regards to Sunderland, and 'Brace the Ace' certainly falls into that category. Playing over 200 games for the Lads over three separate spells, he captained the side in the 1992 cup final, and had a whole host of other highlights in his time here.

A calm and collected midfielder, it was a real shame when Bracewell left the club, to join none other than them up the road. Here's what happened, in his own words (with thanks to Michael Graham for the interview).

Then came that infamous Newcastle move. How did that come about?

Paul: In those days (before Bosman transfers) it was the third Saturday in May that players were offered a contract. The season had finished and that year that Saturday just so happened to be cup final day. As long as they offered you a contract by that time it stopped you leaving the club on a free. Malcolm (Crosby - the manager) wanted me to stay and was negotiating a contract.

On the Thursday before the cup final Malcolm had a board meeting to discuss contracts and I was one of a few lads whose contracts were up. I asked him the question and he said he didn't really want to tell me what they were looking to offer me. I was a little bit disappointed with that because I was the captain of a club going to an FA Cup final and regardless of what was going to happen it wasn't going to affect how I was going to play or how I was going to do.

We had the final and I remember afterwards the lads had gone up for their medals and as captain I was supposed to go and speak to the media and do the press conferences which, with the hurt and disappointment, was the last thing on my mind after losing in four cup finals. I got home and there was a letter in the post from the board offering me a year's contract. They were quite entitled to do that, of course, but in my opinion I felt I was worth a lot more than a year's contract. Back then what you had to do was formerly write back to the club saying it was unacceptable and your name got circulated to all the other clubs. But what I did was physically go into the club and refuse it, which I thought was the right thing to do.

Interestingly enough, once my name was circulated, people range me up and said "your name is on the list, is this right?". Most people thought it was strange. I got a phone call from Terry McDermott and he said exactly the same and asking if I'd like to talk to them. I have heard rumours about being tapped up and speaking to them before that time, but that never happened.

So I went to meet Terry and Kevin (Keegan) in Gosforth Park and the first thing they did was just clarify again that my name was indeed on the list. Then they told me they would understand if I wanted to walk away at this point, because moving from Sunderland to Newcastle was such a massive move for me and my family, but I thought that if that was how Sunderland valued me then I was entitled to speak to whoever I wanted. My intention was just to go and speak to them and listen to Kevin's plans and what he wanted to do, but by the end of it I was sold so we arranged a medical for the following morning.

I went home and I said to the Mrs 'I'll be signing for Newcastle tomorrow' and you can imagine the look of shock and horror on her face. It was quite common knowledge that I didn't pass the medical but having seen the record of games that I'd played it wasn't an issue with Kevin so he contacted the club and instructed them to negotiate a fee - and they thought he was joking! The two clubs couldn't agree a fee, so it went to a tribunal. Sunderland put their case forward, and so did Newcastle, and I remember the chairman of the panel saying to Sunderland 'if you thought of him so highly, then why did you only offer him a year's contract?'.

7. Michael Gray

Remember those legends that I just mentioned? It's probably fair to say that Micky is also one of them. The man doesn't need any introduction, as if you don't know who Sunderland's most famous penalty taker of all time is, then I would have to wonder how you made it to this site in the first place...

However, Micky wasn't the most popular of characters before going on loan to Celtic, then to Blackburn on a free transfer.

In darker days for the club, when staff at the club were losing their jobs following a disappointing campaign, Gray shocked a few people by turning up to training in a brand-new Ferrari. It's not difficult to see why this would rile people, and it even went as far as Mick McCarthy fining the left back two weeks wages and stripping him of captaincy for being so insensitive.

6. Kevin Phillips

Okay, so maybe there are more modern legends than I thought, this fella being pretty much top of the pile.

If any Sunderland star of the last 20 years needs no introduction, then it's 'Super' Kevin Phillips. Signed for the miniscule fee of £350,000 (rising to £600,000 due to his overwhelming success) - Phillips scored 113 goals for the Lads, including 30 in the 1999-2000 season. That haul won him the European Golden Boot award, and he remains the only English player to ever receive it.

However, following our relegation in 2003, the club just couldn't hold on to it's star attraction any longer, and Phillips left to pastures new at Southampton.

It may not be an injury story, there were no behind-the-scenes fall outs, but losing Kevin Phillips to Southampton may just be the most disappointing departure of all.

5. Asamoah Gyan

We all thought that the times were changing when Asamoah Gyan signed for Sunderland. A star in the World Cup, and a real live wire both on and off the pitch, we all thought that we had a real star on our hands, and were delighted that the club had attracted such a talent.

It's fair to say that his performances were something of a mixed bag, but when he was good, he was really, really good.

Following the departure of Darren Bent (more to come on that, unsurprisingly), he had every chance to go on and become a new hero at the club. But, instead, chose to sign for Al Ain, originally on loan, then on a permanent deal recently.

The Ghanian really could have become something special in the eyes of the Sunderland faithful, but money talks (despite his insistence that it had nothing to do with his decision), and the UAE Pro-League is now welcome to him. He can go be 'sexy like cheese' over there instead.

4. Ben Alnwick, Chris Brown and Liam Lawrence

While these three weren't exactly the finest players to pass through the Stadium of Light, Lawrence could be a real handful at times, and went on to do rather well at Stoke.

I'm sure you all know what happened, and rather than have to put the sordid incident into my own words, I'm just going to copy and paste what Wikipedia has to say about the whole ordeal.

On 7 December 2006, tabloid newspaper The Sun reported Ben Alnwick, along with team-mates Chris Brown and Liam Lawrence had filmed themselves in an orgy with a brunette girl referred to as 'Stevie'. In the video, Brown films his team-mates perform sexual acts on the girl as well as themselves, and is said to give "Match of the Day" style commentary throughout.

And that, as they say, was the end of that. Bye boys, Andy Gray would have been proud.

3. Dennis Tueart (and a number of the class of '73)

Following Sunderland's heroics of 1973, and the historic FA Cup win over Leeds United, the club had every chance to really push on and improve.

However, things never really turned out that way, and instead of building on the team, it was instead allowed to fall apart. After a disappointing following campaign, where the team could only manage 6th in the league, despite being overwhelming favourites for promotion, the players became unhappy at the lack of ambition being shown by the club, and transfer requests from Dennis Tueart and Billy Hughes were the beginning of the end.

In Billy Hughes' words "I personally feel the club didn't do enough to hold the team together. I didn't really want to go but we had a good side and instead of going forward, instead of investing in what we had and strengthening it, the club was allowing good players to go, which was very disappointing."

Tueart was the first to leave, going on to become a star at Manchester City, where Micky Horswill also went, Dave Young was sold to Charlton. By the time Dave Watson also signed for City, two years after the cup win, the core of the team was gone, and the heroes of '73 were no longer.

2. Darren Bent

I won't lie, this one still pains me. Darren Bent signed for the lads amid talk of 'becoming a legend' at the club. And, let's be honest, he wasn't doing a bad job of it either.

Maybe we should have known from the start, given the way that he forced his way from Tottenham to Sunderland, tweeting about Spurs chairman Daniel Levy at the time.

However, Darren was a real star for us, and it came as a real shock when he handed in a transfer request, then went and hid in a Birmingham hotel room until the move was completed. Saying that he made his mind up that day, and the deal being completed the next smells of utter bull poo, and numerous reasons for his actual leaving have been sounded out, it may just be Darren who actually knows.

Bent really did have the chance to establish himself as a legend at Sunderland, and it's a real shame that he didn't stick around. But, we don't appreciate players with no loyalty at the SOL, and that's what he proved himself to be.

At the end of the day, maybe we should just accept that Aston Villa are a 'massive club'...

1. Lee Clark



More than enough to seal a departure from the Stadium Of Light, and such an annoyance after he'd put in numerous top quality performances for us, it was widely felt that despite his obvious roots he seemed to be able to rise above it. Not for long it seemed. Even apologies later in his career haven't proved enough to salvage any reputation he was forging on Wearside prior to the moment.

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