clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Finally after years of denial, Milton Núñez admits that Sunderland DID sign the wrong man

Right up until his most recent interview with the English press, Sunderland cult hero Milton Núñez has always denied Peter Reid signed the wrong player. Now at last, in an interview with Honduran newspaper Diez, the striker has finally revealed the truth behind his bizarre arrival at the Stadium of Light.

After years of insisting Peter Reid really did intend to sign him, Wearside cult hero Milton Núñez has finally admitted the legendary Sunderland manager really did identify and sign the wrong man.

Milton Nunez
Milton Nunez

Signed for £1.6m on deadline day in 2000, Núñez managed just one league appearance and one cup outing for the Black Cats.

Spending two years in England, the pint-sized forward made a huge impression when he was unveiled at half-time during a game at the Stadium of Light making a mini lap of the pitch to herald his arrival whilst performing a shadow-boxing routine that would only enhance his nickname of Tyson.

The legend of Reid's signing of Núñez has gone down in Wearside folklore. He was either bought by mistake after the manager who bought him watched a couple of grainy video tapes or signed off the back of a scouting trip to Honduras which went badly wrong.

Until now Núñez has always insisted Sunderland did get the right man. But in an interview with Honduran newspaper Diez published yesterday, the striker now aged 44 has confessed Reid did indeed sign him by mistake.

It has always been widely believed that Sunderland were really expecting to sign Colombia striker Adolfo Valencia from Greek side PAOK where Núñez was on loan at the time.

Adolfo Valencia #14
Adolfo Valencia - the man Sunderland were after

Even until last year Núñez was claiming this to be untrue. In an interview with the Northern Echo in 2016, the 5ft 4in Honduran international insisted he was meant to be in Sunderland:

I was absolutely one hundred percent the player Sunderland wanted to sign. For a start, Adolfo was about six feet tall! I was, well, quite a lot shorter than that. We was also a different style of player to me.

There is no doubt in my mind that I was the one they wanted to bring in.

But in the feature published this week, Núñez now claims Reid had been looking for Valencia but somehow had seen a tape of his Honduran teammate Eduardo Bennett and got everyone completely mixed up:

I asked the Sunderland coach, 'and why did you bring me here? You saw a video of Eduardo Benneth but that was not me. And they were looking for the Eduardo "The Train" Valencia. How did they compare him with me if he was a tall black [man]? I had him as a teammate, but I do not know what I was doing there.

And therein lies the confession and the myth concluded.

Sunderland would later take legal action against Núñez' agent claiming some form of duplicity which has never been made entirely clear. But the mystery which followed the out-of-court settlement suggested that the player's registration was actually held by a Uruguayan third division club rather than top-flight side Nacional Montevideo.

Whatever the truth, the striker's admission perhaps sheds some further light on the baxkground to the 'mix-up' which ended with legal proceedings enacted by Sunderland.

A debate on racism has always clouded Núñez' spell on Wearside. The player was the only black man in the Sunderland squad at the time and the club was the only Premier League team without a black or mixed race player in their senior squad.

But the man himself claims he had heard hints that Reid himself was racist but never saw any sign of it during his spell at the Stadium of Light, indeed claiming the Sunderland manager always made him feel very welcome:

The coach was said to be racist and I did not know whether to believe it or not. But I was the only black man in the squad and he signed me. No he always included me.

There have also been suggestions that Reid froze out Núñez once he realised his mistake in signing him, but the truth of that apparent shun may actually lie in a misunderstanding when the forward headed off for international duty against his manager's wishes:

I always asked if I could go to certain meetings [international games] and so it was. There was a game against El Salvador that we won. I was called but the coach [Reid] said no. We were due to play against Manchester and I was supposed to play with Kevin Phillips but I did not get into that game.

My teammates wondered why I did not play and I expected to. But perhaps there were consequences because in the end they did not use me and I went to the national team.

But, brought in to supplement Sunderland's legendary strike-force of Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn, Núñez says he does not feel his spell in England was an entirely wasted one:

At the time I did not feel useless. There were things that occupied me but I did want to participate [in the team] more. I wanted to play.

Núñez is still playing football out there in South America with Guatemalan side Universidad San Carlos, though he has plans to retire this summer and perhaps pursue a career in politics which he has pondered in the past.

United States vs Honduras
Nunez playing for Honduras against America

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report