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Forgotten Black Cats: Colin Healy

With the lads suffering badly following relegation, Mick McCarthy pulled off somewhat of a transfer coup - in typical Sunderland fashion though, things didn't go to plan.

Coventry City v Sunderland

I'm thrilled Colin has joined us. There was some strong competition for his signature, including from some Premiership clubs. It's pleasing to have secured the services of a player of his quality.

As Mick McCarthy beamed you could see he was absolutely thrilled to bring in Colin Healy, the bright young talent from Celtic's successful youth academy.

23-years-old at the time of signing, Healy had already won a Scottish Premier League title and a Scottish Cup two years earlier. Although he had dropped out of Celtic's first team picture, his reputation as a talented defensive minded midfielder meant that he was very much in high demand when his Parkhead contract ran down. McCarthy fought off competition from Cardiff City and, perhaps more notably, Aston Villa, spending most of his press conferences alluding to the fact he was desperate to bring him to the club.

Healy had to wait several weeks before making his first Sunderland appearance. Signed just before McCarthy's first win as manager at Preston, he had kept faith with the starting eleven that had broken a run of 17 straight defeats. An injury to Jason McAteer gave his an unexpected debut, replacing the captain as a 34th minute substitute at home to Crystal Palace, a game where we would eventually run out 2-1 winners thanks to a 93rd minute Marcus Stewart penalty - you may remember this game as the one where Simon Crabtree's famously said "kiss the ball, kiss your Granny".

Healy would go on from there to keep his place in the side as an improved Sunderland gave the Wearside faithful six wins, seven draws and only three defeats in the 16 games he appeared in. The Lads where in the play-off positions going into the Sky televised game vs Coventry City, where disaster would strike for the highly rated midfielder.

A sickening tackle from Coventry's Yousef Safri late in the game meant viewers would wince in shock and turn away from the TV screen as if it was the season 7 opener of Walking Dead. His ankle almost bent in half, with the obvious agony and pain evident on the midfielder's face - two fractured bones in his left leg sentenced the player to a long rehabilitation.

It would emerge he had received an apology from the Moroccan, but he chose to remain positive, commenting: 'I've been told that the operation went well and I'm positive about the future. It was good to be back in and see the lads today.'

He would return to training almost a year later with Sunderland still in the Championship. Riding high near the top of the league, the return of Healy would be seen as ‘like a new signing’, someone to complement the impressive Dean Whitehead in the centre of the pitch. A 0-1 reverse in the weekend game against Sheffield United gave further course for him to feel he had a part to play, but in the week he returned to training he would suffer the heartbreak of another double leg fracture - an injury that ended his Sunderland career. As Sunderland returned to the promised land of the Premier League, his contract ran down and he was allowed to leave.

He would again move north of the border to Livingston on a short term contract, in March of the following season, although his deal would not be renewed in the summer. A one year contract signed with Barnsley in pre-season also turned out to be short term and the 13 times capped Irishman found himself on the free agent list once more. His next move would be one that would resurrect his career however, making the move to his native Ireland to join Cork City. Here he made 44 appearances, winning plaudits for his performances as he built up fitness and began to show something like the form that made him a hit at Celtic. This form caught the attention of Roy Keane, who paid Cork £100,000 to bring him back to the Championship with Ipswich Town.

Keane would give him a chance in the centre of midfield at Portman Road, but sadly as the games wore on, it became evident that it was perhaps a step too high for a player who had suffered almost 2 years out of the game only a few years beforehand and he was released in November 2011, where he then re-joined Cork City on a free transfer.

Healy was a player who never had the time or luck to show us why he was brought in by the club, instead becoming another ‘Forgotten Black Cat’. It was a career that offered so much, but sadly gave us too little.

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