Want to feel old? Well, although it only feels like only yesterday, it’s actually been over ten years since Teemu Tainio joined the Lads as part of a triple deal from Tottenham Hotspur.
Mind boggling, I know!
Teemu Tainio (which rolls off the tongue wonderfully) was just a bright eyed, bushy tailed teenager, destined for the glory of mid-table Premier League football when he was plucked from FC Haka in the Finnish third division by Auxerre, eventually moving to Spurs in 2005, where he enjoyed moderate success.
As for his move to Wearside, let’s rewind back to 2008, a summer where our recruitment team seemed determined to purchase the entirety of the Spurs bench. Lodging a joint £23m bid for Pascal Chimbonda, Younes Kaboul, Steed Malbranque, and Teemu Tainio, Sunderland were successful in acquiring all of their targets except for Kaboul, who of course would later make his way to Wearside.
Whilst the Finn was the first through the Stadium of Light door, it’s fair to say he was the least memorable, despite being a fairly steady central midfielder.
The signings of Tainio, Malbranque and Chimbonda were seen as a bit of a coup for Sunderland at the time, with many fans commenting that summer’s purchases felt like the “step up” that the magic carpet Niall Quinn had promised.
Roy Keane commented that the amount of international appearances Tainio had would “show he has a lot to offer”, and he wasn’t exactly wide of the mark. Teemu was tidy in possession and showed some nice touches on the ball. In truth, he was like a more refined version of Dean Whitehead - his injuries however, well... they were a different story.
With niggle after niggle, Tainio would spend the majority of his time at Wearside in the treatment room, and by the time his first season had ended things has changed pretty drastically. Whilst we remained in the top tier at the expense of Newcastle, the speed at which the magic carpet was descending meant the club’s ears were popping.
His mate Pascal had ran back off to Spurs with his braids intact, Younes Kaboul was contemplating whether that move to Pompey was really worth it considering they were absolutely skint and Roy Keane had verbally battered Ellis Short before quitting his job as Sunderland manager.
After such drastic changes, dismantling and gutting the squad seemed the order of the day.
Whilst Tainio was rated under temporary manager Ricky Sbragia, it seemed he was certainly not by incoming manager Steve Bruce as Tainio was omitted from the squad. Bruce completely refreshed the midfield with Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana forming a formidable partnership. Tainio was forgotten.
For Tainio, a single goal-scoring appearance in a 4-1 win over Norwich City in the League Cup was all he would be afforded by Bruce before being loaned out to Birmingham City.
True to form, however, the midfielder picked up a thigh injury whilst on international duty, and that ruled him out of his first two weeks at St. Andrews. His return did result in an impressive display, however, playing right-back in the second city derby against Aston Villa.
Fast forward to the end of his loan spell though and, quelle surprise, injuries had wrecked any hope of a permanent move as Tainio completed only six games for the Blues as they ended in a commendable ninth position.
Shortly after returning to Sunderland, Teemu agreed to a mutual termination of his Sunderland contract.
So, now it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for... what happened next?
In order: Champions League football, the Big Apple, returning home and finally - weight gain.
Landing firmly on his feet following his release, Tainio was offered a contract by former manager Martin Jol who’d taken over at Dutch giants Ajax the same day he was released by Sunderland. Rather predictably, it didn’t really work out.
An injury prone player, barely playing for mid-table Premier League clubs making a move to a Champions League club? Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to us either.
After just five appearances - one of which included a glamorous twenty one minute spell marking Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo - Teemu took a path well trodden by many before him and accepted a truck load of cash (not literally a truck load, but you get the point) and moved to the land of Denny’s and Walmart where he fulfilled the dream of many legendary players - playing alongside Carl Robinson in the New York Red Bulls midfield.
Tainio would become the Benjamin Button of central midfielders in New York, with the Finn turning into an awesome goal-shot creating midfielder, bagging a boat load of defence killing forward pass balls that terminated other American soccer franchises - and in turn becoming a Red Bulls fan favourite before returning home to Finland, to end his career in Helsinki.
After retiring in early 2015, Teemu returned to Spurs in a role that would see him scout players from Finland and the neighbouring countries.
So far he has returned back with one player - his son Maxi. That was handy, wasn’t it?
Tainio was more recently spotted back in the white of Tottenham as part of their legends team that helped open their impressive new stadium with a 5-4 loss to Inter ‘Forever’.
Whilst the midfielder netted the opening goal of the game, more was made of the Finn’s ‘new look’ that perhaps indicated he’s enjoying his retirement a little too much.