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Roker Report meets... Darren Holloway! Part Two - Leaving Sunderland; Quinn & Phillips & why he thinks we’ll be relegated

Yesterday we brought you part one of our interview with former Sunderland defender Darren Holloway. In today’s chat, we ask him who the best player he ever played with at SAFC was, what it was like playing with Thomas Helmer, moving to Wimbledon and subsequently becoming MK Dons, and his thoughts on the club now that he is a fan.

David Beckham, Darren Holloway

RR: From your time at the club, who would you rate as the best player that you played with?

DH: That's a tough one - I can’t choose between Quinny and Kev. I really can’t.

Quinny came in when I was a young pro and all the other lads thought, "why have we gone down this route?” I had done my knee and he had done his as well, so I did my rehab with him. It was touch and go at the time with him to be totally truthful. We talked about his future and other things.

When he did come back though and I played with him, you quickly realise just how good he was. He was phenomenal. His touch was exquisite. For a big man - I mean people talk about Peter Crouch now - Quinny was just brilliant.

I remember Sol Campbell came to the Stadium of Light - at the time he was being talked about as the best centre half around - and Quinny just destroyed him, he scored two. We’re talking about one of the best centre halves England has ever seen, and Niall took him apart.

Superkev, though, was a breath of fresh air. He was a quiet lad, but a very good character to have around - and of course, he brought goals, goals and more goals.

I honestly cannot choose between them.

RR: The following season was amazing, but ultimately for you, disappointing due to injury and the form of Chris Makin. However, you did play in the 5-2 win at Bury. How do you remember that night?

DH: It was a great night. We were a really close knit group and as much as it hurt me not getting in the team, it was great to be part of it.

Gav's ticket from that night at Bury!

We had a pre-season in the West Country and I got a call from my agent who had a call from Peter Reid. He was saying "Reidy said you don’t look right. Something’s up". There was as well. My back was causing me problems, so I went away to see a specialist and I was out for six months. Chris took his chance and did really, really well. It was great to be involved that night though.

RR: The following season in the Premier League proved more fruitful for you and for the team of course as we finished 7th. Did you expect us to be that successful?

DH: No, to be honest. We did really well through our work rate. We were maybe overachieving, as well as some young lads coming through the ranks - something I like to see even now - but it’s hard to sustain that form without adding little bits of quality, like Leicester are seeing now.

You can’t overachieve every season. If we had just added quality and built the team up we may of been able to sustain that. What we’d give for a team like that now though.

RR: The team gelled perfectly for those four seasons you were at the club. A lot of the players have since spoke of the closeness of the team as individuals. We brought in big name players like Thomas Helmer and he didn’t fit in. Did you need to have a certain personality to be part of that team then? What happened there?

DH: Thomas was very, very good but he got a tortured by Alan Smith away at Leeds. He needed a run of games but after that game Reidy just didn’t think he was up for it, I think.

It happened a few times with Reidy. Jan Eriksson was another. An international - one poor game and you never saw him again. Peter Reid needed you to give everything. He had an idea in his mind, that a player had to fit his profile. It was all about working hard.

Other players like Smithy we mentioned before, Johnny Oster is another - talented, technically gifted lads, but they didn’t really fit the profile that Reidy wanted.

Bury v Sunderland Peter Reid
Peter Reid celebrates promotion at Gigg Lane - a game Darren remembers fondly!

RR: When you left Sunderland, you were part of a Wimbledon side that eventually turned into MK Dons. You were part of the squad who went through that weird transition. How was that?

DH: It was pure daft.

I didn’t want to go there to be honest. I went down and spoke to them and they showed me around the club, the stadium and the plans - it all sounded great, but I still didn’t want to go! I came back and said, "nah, I am happy to be patient and get my chance", but my hand was forced after being told I wasn’t going to play. It was more money as well and my agent wanted me to go. So it was one of them.

We had a good team though, we had just gone down and still had Michael Hughes, Marcus Gayle, John Hartson and Jason Euell. We underachieved though and it all went a bit pear shaped.

The move to Milton Keyes... it was just a joke. As a football fan you don’t want to travel 70 miles for a home game. I had a home game once, it would normally take me and hour and a half to get there. I got stuck on the M25 and it took me three hours to get to the game. I had to go onto the subs bench.

I played a game at home to Rotherham on a Tuesday night, everyone knew about the move and the fans had boycotted it so there were only about 900 fans there at best. It was just not right. It didn’t sit right with anyone in football really.

RR: You’re a Sunderland fan. What are your thoughts on the current team and management? Are we going to stay up? And what do you think is wrong with this current crop of Sunderland players?

DH: I think we’ll bite the bullet this year. We’ve flirted with it too long.

It’s got to the point where I’m just sick of it. I’m becoming less fearful of relegation. We’ve not got a great deal of money, but when we did we spent literally years getting recruitment wrong.

I knew Sam from my loan spell at Bolton and I knew what he could bring to the club. I thought that was it, we would build and stop flirting with relegation. I must be honest and say I thought Moyes was the right man but it’s just not worked. He doesn’t help himself with the stuff he comes out with. Second game and he says we’re in a relegation fight. I know it’s honest, but I don’t want to hear that from a Manager of my football club.

I know some fans are becoming more comfortable with the idea of relegation - with talk of better away games and all that - but despite being sick of the constant relegation battles, I don’t think there’s a better place to be than the Premier League and I want my team to stay there.