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Sunderland’s 20 Most Bizarre Signings: Part 1, ft. a dyed-in-the-wool mag & chocolate fireguard!

There’s been quite a few, hasn’t there? With a list as long as Costel Pantilimon’s arm, we have a look back at some of Sunderland’s most bizarre purchases.

Sunderland v A.F.C. Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

20. Steve Harper

Alright, let’s admit it - this transfer was worth it for the sheer look of disgust on his face the night we relegated his boyhood team by thrashing Everton 3-0. God, that was funny.

Yes, he was experienced, yes we needed a third choice goalkeeper, and yes, he didn’t kick up too much of a fuss, but if you don’t think this transfer was bizarre, just look at the photo of his unveiling - it looks like someone just told him his puppy had been knocked over.

He came, he didn’t play a minute of first team football and he looked really sad almost all of the time.

“I’m sorry Steve, we couldn’t save the puppy”.
� Sunderland AFC

19. Tom Peeters

In the summer of 2000, young Belgian player of the year Tom Peeters arrived from KV Mechelen for a measly £250k. What could go wrong? For Thomas, almost everything really.

Reidy announced his arrival by admitting he was “certain” that the youngster would one day play for Belgian national team, which may sound a feat these days, but back at the turn of the millennium it wasn’t littered with the array of talent it has now. Needless to say, Peeters never did play for Belgium’s national side and only appeared once in a red and white shirt.

However, rather brilliantly, months before his release a certain Howard Wilkinson had been relieved of his duties and had to call a team meeting to announce his departure.

With the room deadly silent, a visibly upset Steve Cotterill to his side, Wilko assembled the squad and started to announce the news. ”I’ve been fired as the Manager of the football...” but before he could finish his sentence, Peeters jumped out of his seat shouting ”Good! Good! Get in there! Good riddance! Great news!”

The managerial duo stood stunned and speechless as the squad broke into a mixture of laughter, shock and anger. We salute you Tom, wherever you may be.

Tom Peeters - big fan of Howard Wilkinson.

18: David Healy

What exactly possessed Roy Keane to swoop for the Northern Irish international on deadline day 2008, we’ll never really know.

Weeks after securing the loan signing of the supremely talented Djibril Cisse to partner star man Kenwyne Jones, Keano had decided his best option was to hand Fulham over Dickson Etuhu (who was starting to develop quite nicely) in exchange for the former Manchester United youth product in case one of them got injured.

Needless to say, it didn’t really work and he left after scoring a grand total of two goals, whereas Etuhu played in a UEFA Cup Final. Hmm.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - FA Cup 4th Round Replay
David Healy - why?
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

17. Carsten Fredgaard

Affectionately nicknamed ‘Chocolate Fireguard’ such was his ‘ability’ on the pitch, the young Dane was dire. Quite what Peter Reid saw in the Danish midfielder that convinced him to pay £1.8 million is anyone’s guess.

The best way to sum up his time on Wearside is perhaps to look at his appearance record where he managed only one Premier League start. Despite playing the same position as our absent first choice winger Allan Johnston, our Scouse manager decided to opt for cultured central midfielders like Stefan Schwarz on the wing instead.

Not only was he overpriced, but he simply wasn’t very good.

Neal Ardley and Carsten Fredgaard
Oh Carsten - we never knew you.

16. Simon Johnson

Season objectives? Promotion and a return back to the Premier League at first time of asking? Sure! Why not! What else screams promotion more than “Leeds United reserve center forward who has never scored a professional goal in his career.”

Err... exactly.

How Simon Ainsley Johnson got his move to Wearside is shrouded in mystery. Was Mick McCarthy drugged? Was it some Jedi mind trick that convinced Big Mick that the 21-year-old was in fact the cousin of George Weah?

Have you ever looked at the squad list from the season 2003/04? It’s a fabulous list of random loans, no marks and people you forgot even existed.

Whilst Kenny Cooper and Colin Cooper are players that have maybe vanished from memory, there’s at least an argument for why they were brought into a team pushing for promotion, in Johnson’s case - it really was quite bizarre.

Simon Johnson - formerly of Bury, Halesowen Town, Solihull Motors and Sunderland.

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