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Forgotten Black Cats: Russell Anderson

In the summer of 2007, Roy Keane’s newly promoted Black Cats were spending big for the first time in a while. Whilst we welcomed in new striker Michael Chopra for £5m and broke the British transfer record for a goalkeeper to purchase Craig Gordon from Hearts, another man came across the border with him, bringing a glowing reputation whilst costing a sum of just £1m.

Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Roy Keane was a massive influence. I've watched him as a player over the years and now he has gone into management he's got a massive presence about him, so it was a huge factor in me coming to the club.

The fans are very passionate about their team, too. The crowds they were getting last sea-son are a tribute to the supporters and it's going to be exciting to play in front of them.

Our Irish saviour Roy Keane had begun the pre-season by bolstering the defence as the likeliness of bringing back the revelation that was Manchester United’s Jonny Evans looked bleak. Whilst Greg Halford came into the right back slot, he had begun the process of finding a partner for player of the year Nyron Nosworthy.

Anderson was the first of three centre backs that would join that summer, but probably came as the most unknown, however his stock at Aberdeen, where he was captain of his hometown club, was incredibly high. Fans at Pittodrie bemoaned the loss of their main stay in the defence, whilst they did comment, the Chairman himself saying he expected him to go onto bigger and better things. A fee of £1million was agreed for the Scottish International to become Sunderland’s second signing of the summer.

He appeared as a late substitute in the showpiece game against Juventus in pre-season a few weeks later, the Lads conceding an 88th minute goal as the game ran out 1-1. A certain Paul McShane, another new signing in central defence, also started that game where he won man of the match unanimously thus starting the season as Evans’ replacement, with Anderson having to make do with a place among the substitutes bench.

Three games in and the new signing did eventually make his debut at Wigan, replacing the injured Paul McShane in the 62nd minute in a 3-0 reverse, as an impressive four-point haul from the first 2 games came to a grinding halt, with the former Aberdeen man at the centre of the worst of it. Wigan won a penalty as soon as Anderson entered the fray.

Emile Heskey tortured him as, seven minutes into his debut, he hacked him down in the box, giving away the second penalty of the game and in the process contributing to Sunderland's collapse. That would be the last of Russell Anderson’s league appearances as a Sunderland player, but despite Keane commenting he had "found out about certain people today", the £1m signing was more a slave to bad luck.

Anderson would rupture his ligaments in his first full appearance for the lads at Luton Town which ruled him out for 3 months and effectively forced us into purchasing Stoke City centre back Danny Higginbotham for a fee of around £3m, who was immediately thrown into action and played the majority of games alongside Nosworthy, forcing Paul McShane into the right full back position. Perhaps most importantly for Anderson though, this pushed him further down the pecking order as most of us forgot he actually existed.

After many a failed loan move across the lower leagues over the next year (when he wasn’t injured), he was eventually given a free transfer to Championship high flyers Derby County as we paid off the remainder of his contract. He had not played in 14 months by this point and of his time at the club he said "It hasn't been a great couple of years and I've spent more time in the treatment room than the dressing-room. But I can't moan about what happened at Sunderland because it won't do me any good." I imagine his face was as grey as the scenery of his hometown as he said that.

Things got a little better for him there as he played a handful of games, then he started the season alongside Dean Leacock for Manager Nigel Clough, but his dreaded injury curse struck him again. He was once more ruled out for 2 months with injury that August after only starting one game. Further injuries were also suffered, meaning it took until the following February before he completed only his 3rd game of the season. However from there onwards, he proved his fitness as he started six of the last nine games for Clough as his fitness levels rose. He was linked with a move back to Aberdeen at the end of that season and whilst Derby were prepared to allow him to leave, he opted to stay before his season become groundhog day for the previous one, getting a serious injury 35 minutes into the season opener which left him out for a further three months. By the time February 2011 had come around, the Rams released him after only 15 appearances in three years at the club, where he then subsequently re-joined his hometown club Aberdeen.

With his big move now years in the past, age and legs catching up on him, the Scot ironically regained his fitness as he managed an Indian summer at Pittodrie, completing almost seventy games in only three years, with his best haul since leaving the club cementing his place as a modern day Aberdonian icon. However a disappointing final season disrupted by his curse of injury brought an end to his career in 2015 as he hung up his boots for a business development role at the Scottish club with a career record of 480 appearances across two spells at Aberdeen, ourselves, Burnley and Plymouth on loan and of course, Derby County, the biggest story of his career perhaps being that 280 of the appearances came 8 years before his retirement.

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