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Whatever Happened To... Sunderland’s opening day Championship squad from 2006/07?

After a summer of change, Niall Quinn’s Sunderland fell to defeat against a stubborn Coventry side - but what happened to the squad that took the field that day?

Coventry City v Sunderland Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

It’s now just a little over two weeks until the new season starts - with the 2017/18 season being Sunderland’s first second-tier campaign in a decade. But whatever happened to those that took to the pitch ten years ago on that opening day defeat?Cover your eyes as we journey through the Sunderland starting line-up from 06/07’s 2-1 defeat at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.

GK. Ben Alnwick

Wannabee porn star with a terrible mid-00's mullet-style haircut. Alnwick was given the number one shirt by interim manager Niall Quinn, and the Prudhoe-born stopper was quite frankly complete rubbish. It didn’t take very long for Roy Keane to agree once he arrived at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland v Aston Villa
Ben Alnwick
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Shortly after being dropped following a dismal 4-1 defeat at Preston, Alnwick was caught on video ‘bonding’ in all the wrong ways with a fan and fellow teammates Martin ‘blue jumper’ Woods, Liam Lawrence and Chris Brown. The video received a thumbs down from his manager and he was shortly sent packing to Tottenham in exchange for Marton Fulop.

Now lining up for Bolton, most Sunderland fans have much fonder memories of an Alnwick sibling - Ben’s brother Jak conceded a injury time derby winner at St James Park in 2014. Wallop.

RB: Rory Delap

If only we had known then that he could throw a ball 100 yards - maybe we would have seen more of Rory Delap.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League
Someone should have listened when Rory Delap asked to take the throw ins.
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

The Irishman was another quickly put out of the picture as soon as Mr. Keane walked through the door. Loaned out to Stoke, Delap broke his leg in a game against us at the Brittania only a few games into his loan spell; however, Tony Pulis took good care of Rory and used him to catapult Stoke into the Premier League, where he spent seven years before retiring at Burton Albion in 2013.

CB: Kenny Cunningham

Our ‘star’ summer signing was 35-years-old by the time he came to Wearside and boy could you tell. His legs were gone, his pace was non-existent and he was injured pretty quickly. Although Kenny was handed the captaincy by Roy Keane, a bad injury at home to Barnsley ended his career.

Bled for the cause - Kenny Cunningham

He’s now a pundit on RTE Sports in Ireland.

CB: Steve Caldwell

The Scottish centre-half lasted a further two months in the team as the 2006/17 campaign progressed before being told to pack his bags, moving to Burnley for £200,000.

Sunderland v Liverpool
Steve Caldwell
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Following his move, he played at centre-half for the Burnley team that lost 3-2 at the Stadium of Light, a game which saw us achieve promotion in pulsating fashion. He’s now enjoying his retirement in Canada after finishing his career with Toronto FC.

LB: Danny Collins

"For Brazil he should play..." is a chant remembered fondly on Wearside. Collins went from strength to strength in a Sunderland shirt, winning promotion with the club and gaining the player of the year award on the way to helping us stay in the Premier League.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland
Danny Collins scores a goal
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

He left unexpectedly to join the former Mackem contingent at Stoke City in 2009. Not a popular figure at the Potteries, he went on to play for Nottingham Forest and Rotherham. He still plays in League Two for Grimsby Town.

RM: Tommy Miller

With his Sunderland career akin to the performance of Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man, it was really no surprise the local lad barely got a look in after that dreadful opening month. With the likes of Yorke and Kavanagh joining weeks later, Tommy was ushered out of the door on loan to Preston until his contract ran down, before eventually returning to Ipswich Town.

Fulham v Sunderland
Gwaarn Tommy lad. Miller at Craven Cottage 2006
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

He quickly turned into something of a journeyman midfielder, racking up seven clubs in six years. He was last seen turning out for Halifax Town.

CM: Dean Whitehead

Affectionately known as Bananaman for his huge, almost intimidating chin, Deano is about to embark upon yet another Premier League campaign, this time with David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town. His third career promotion came last season with the Terriers beating Jaap Stam’s Reading on penalties at Wembley following a goalless draw at the home of English football.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
Deano. Whitehead in 2007
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Often under-appreciated on Wearside, our former skipper played his part in solidifying our place in the top tier before moving to Stoke City for a hefty fee of £5m following five seasons at the SoL.

CM: Grant Leadbitter

Another midfielder that went on to play his part in our promotion, the local boy scored nine goals from midfield and in turn became a key cog in Roy Keane’s title-winning machine.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland
Flying in. Grant Leadbitter
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Fondly remembered for some memorable strikes during his time at the club, he is currently entering his sixth year as a Middlesbrough player.

LM: Liam Lawrence

West Ham United v Sunderland
Lush Liam
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The coiffured former Mansfield Town winger fell out with Roy Keane and became the fourth player from this line-up that eventually moved to Stoke City. Now a free agent, the 35-year-old was released from Bristol Rovers in January of this year and is yet to find a new club.

CF: Daryl Murphy

Sunderland v Burnley Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Murphy’s form in our promotion campaign earned him a £1.5m move to Scottish champions Celtic, where he failed to find any real success. He then moved back to England with Ipswich, scoring 50 goals after landing at Portman Road.

Presently residing with our rivals up the road, it’s likely he’ll be back playing in the Championship come the 1st of September.

CF: Stephen Elliott

Elliott’s career promised so much but was disrupted by injuries. Signed by Mick McCarthy, the young Irishman was well liked on Wearside for his undoubted knack of nabbing a goal.

Seen by most fans as the player who would be the most likely to fire us back into the Premier League, his unfortunate fitness problems continued into the season, meaning by the time he was fully fit we had David Connolly, Anthony Stokes, Daryl Murphy and Stern John ahead of him in the pecking order.

Coventry City v Sunderland
Stephen Elliot on the opening day of the 2006-7 season against Coventry
Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

Released almost exactly one year after this game, he moved on to play for Wolves, Preston North End, Hearts, Carlisle and our opponents that day, Coventry City. He now plays in the League of Ireland for Drogheda.

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