Most Sunderland fans hail the swapping of Jozy Altidore for Jermain Defoe as one of the best pieces of transfer business in the club’s history. If this is the case, they’ve clearly forgotten about that time we swapped Michael Proctor for Darren Byfield.
This deal rather typified the nature of Sunderland’s transfer business in the early to mid-2000’s. Mick McCarthy made a series of signings on short term deals - Kevin Cooper, Darren Carter and Alan Quinn to name just a few.
The Sunderland Echo article confirming the deal makes grim if not slightly comical reading in hindsight.
It refers to the "bitter disappointment" of missing out on preferred target Jon Stead. Thank God we got him in the end, eh?
But we moved quickly to secure the services of the Rotherham striker and managed to register him in time for the game at Watford the next day.
To describe the signing of Byfield as underwhelming would be an understatement. The West Midland’s striker had scored just 43 goals in 196 appearances for his previous club and as much as we laugh at Jon Stead now, in 2004 he was considered as a promising young striker having been prolific at Huddersfield.
Mick Mack seemed happy enough with his capture however, commenting; "Darren has great pace and whenever he has played against us he has caused us problems."
His faith in Byfield was repaid just 24 hours later as the striker came off the bench to secure a point for Sunderland just four minutes from time. He went on to score five goals in 17 appearances, a decent return considering 9 of those came from the subs bench.
Despite this decent return his time at Sunderland ended in controversy as the club opted to retract their offer of a new contract due to the player’s agent altering his demands.
According to the Sunderland Echo his agent, Johnathan Barnett, asked the Professional Footballers' Association to intervene, questioning the legality of Sunderland's actions.
The man himself was keen to sign for the club, saying; "I haven't spoken to Mick McCarthy or the club directly since the end of last season because I leave all that stuff to my agent. I want to sign for Sunderland, but my agent's telling me there's no deal now."
So was Byfield the one that got away? Had his agent not messed him around, could it have been him blasting us to the Premier League during the 2004-05 season. The answer is, probably not.
He went on to have a very moderate career, playing for a series of lower league clubs and gradually dropping down the pyramid before retiring after a spell at Solihull Moors. On retirement he took on the role of manager at Redditch United.
So to summarise, Byfield was an average signing for an average team and did an average job as part of an average career. However, off the pitch his scoring ability was substantially better as he was married to pop star Jamelia for a period, who he has a child with.