RR: After being relegated back to the Championship we endured a strange yet ultimately successful season. Niall Quinn started the campaign as the manager, but eventually Roy Keane came in when we were rock bottom of the league. What did Roy say to the players on the first day that he came in?
SE: We were all astonished. It was a shock because he wasn’t really in the running.
He came in on his first day and took the lads on a walk around the Academy. He actually spoke to me first because he knew me a bit from the Ireland squad. All the lads were giving me jip saying I was Roy Keane’s best mate, but I really wasn’t!
He just wanted to know more about the club, the Academy, the Stadium, the city.
He was the kind of man that you could feel in a room before he was in it. He was just a winner. You have to look at what he did, he got Sunderland promoted and they are still there ten season's on. I still think he has something to offer a club in management. He’s still a young man.
RR: Perhaps something that has been brushed under the carpet from that season was the infamous 'video' which leaked onto the internet featuring a number of our first team players, all of whom Keane seemed to either move on or isolate. What are your memories of that time - what was it like being around the dressing room in the days that followed the leaking of the tape?
SE: It wasn’t great for the football club, but to be honest, it wasn’t really spoke about that much.
The players left soon after; Roy never never spoke about it because we had a league to win and I was just concentrating on that. I think Roy had the same attitude - it was dealt with internally and we went on trying to get the promotion.
I’m sure the lads regret it now - it was embarrassing for the football club. To be honest, once you crossed Roy, it was hard to get back in. The club shouldn’t have to be dealing with that sort of stuff, though.
There were a few instances that season with discipline. Liam Miller was constantly late. That annoyed Roy Keane, and he made that very public. Liam is one of my best mates, but he was so laid back.
Me and Daryl Murphy used to go to training with him as we lived close. We’d knock on his door and he’d be hanging out of his window going "five minutes lads, five minutes!" and then half way through the drive, he’d pull over and go "I’m just gonna nip in here for a sandwich". Me and Daryl had to remind him who his manager was sometimes!
RR: When he let you move to Wolverhampton it baffled many fans who felt that you still had plenty to offer. Did you want to leave, or was it out of your hands?
SE: That pre-season, I knew he was going to sign some players. He had started playing more a lot out wide. I mean, I didn’t mind, I’d rather be playing any where than not at all.
Anyhow, he came up to me and said, "if someone comes in for you, we can agree a fee" as I only had one year left on my contract.
I needed stability, to be honest. I had a young family who had roots in Sunderland, and my wife is a Mackem - so I didn’t really want to leave, but I wasn’t playing much and I needed to look after my future. Wolves offered a four-year-contract and Mick McCarthy was there. I loved the club, but I was still young and I wanted to play as well.
RR: Do you get back to see Sunderland play much these days? What do you think of the team now, and do you think that David Moyes will ultimately succeed as Sunderland manager?
SE: I still get up quite a bit. My Father in law is a season ticket holder. Obviously, my wife’s family is there.
I’m back up around Christmas, actually.
David Moyes? To be honest, I’m not one of his biggest fans. I don’t like how his teams have set up over the years at other clubs, but you have to take your hat off to him over the past few weeks. Victor Anichebe has made such a difference, he’s an absolute monster. They’ve got themselves into a position where they might be able to attract players in January as they aren’t sat stuck at the bottom of the league.
Jordan Pickford is outstanding too. I actually watched him play before I moved back to Ireland - my local team was Preston then. I went to see him and I was thinking “Jesus, this boy is brilliant, Sunderland could do worse than getting him back”.
He’s taken his chance with both hands - literally.
Join us back here tomorrow to see Stephen Elliott's best Sunderland XI!