Danny Collins signed for Sunderland as a fresh-faced hopeful from then League Two side Chester for the paltry sum of £140,000 in the 2004/05 season.
Fast forward five years or so and Steve Bruce - mistakenly, in my opinion - sold Collins to Tony Pulis’ Stoke for £2.75 million (eventually rising to £3.5 million) - and we’ve seldom since seen a better all-round defender on Wearside.
But, despite losing a very good player we at least made a small profit on the initial investment - something Sunderland have consistently failed to achieve when selling players recruited from outside of the club since Collins’ departure.
I don’t really need to remind anyone, but we have something close to £50m worth of players out on loan at the minute - the most recent of which being our club-record signing Didier Ndong, who left yesterday to join up with Watford on a temporary basis.
It’s safe to say that, despite investing heavily during our stint in the Premier League, we’ve recruited poorly for a long time now and are undeniably suffering as a result.
But, there is hope. Once this season is out of the way, the summer provides us with an opportunity to completely rethink our policy on transfers, and we’d be foolish to not look back to a time when our fiscal frugality led us to signing some pretty important, exciting players from the lower leagues that saw playing for Sunderland as a fantastic opportunity.
Upon arrival, Collins was initially used as a backup option to the more experienced trio of Gary Breen, Steven Caldwell and George McCartney. No doubt pleased at being given the opportunity to play for a big club in Sunderland, the Welshman grafted hard despite finding first team opportunities limited in his early days on Wearside - an attitude that has been sorely lacking amongst some of Sunderland’s recent, more expensive flops.
Collins wasn’t the only young player from around that time we made a success of - Liam Lawrence, Dean Whitehead and Stephen Elliott all came in to Sunderland under similar circumstances and left us as better, more developed footballers.
Danny Collins is in the studio pic.twitter.com/e6LZTxmWkZ— Roker Report (@RokerReport) January 28, 2018
Having met with the former Wales international when he came in to our studio to record an episode of the Roker Rapport Podcast recently, I was immediately struck by his professionalism.
Above all, though, Collins had and has a love for the beautiful game. I mean, why else would he bother "podcast-ing" alongside us idiots if he didn’t have a deep-ingrained passion for football?
The point is this - Danny was young, talented and ambitious when he first rocked up here, and Sunderland must look towards signing players of his ilk irregardless of what league we find ourselves in this coming summer, lads with the correct mentality and a willingness to fight for the shirt.
Was he always the “skilful c**t” he became when Mick McCarthy first brought him to Sunderland? Definitely not. But, Collins was afforded time to grow and develop into a man who became club captain and fans player of the season in 2008 and 2009.
The now Grimsby Town defender is the perfect perfect example upon which Sunderland’s transfer model should be based - a young, ambitious player signed for a small sum before being allowed to develop, eventually sold at a profit having done well at Sunderland.
The guy genuinely loved playing up here on Wearside, cherishing every moment when performing in front of a packed Stadium of Light whilst fans sang his name in the chant that became synonymous with his time at the club.
Collins, to me, epitomises exactly how I expect players to behave when afforded the opportunity to play for a club like Sunderland.
Danny Collins was a guest this past week on the Roker Rapport Podcast - click here to find out how you can listen to the show on your device, or simply click play on the Acast link below.