Interest in Sunderland target
Before completing the League One record transfer of Will Grigg back on transfer deadline day in January, Sunderland failed with a bit for Doncaster Rovers striker John Marquis.
The 27-year-old scored 22 goals in the league as Rovers finished in the play-off places but their manager Grant McCann has revealed that he did want to join Sunderland on deadline day only to be convinced to stay and help the club push for promotion:
He’s contracted for another year so a conversation I had with John in January was stay and help us get promoted, he was upset at the time.
He didn’t want to go, then he did want to go, then he didn’t, then he wanted to go to Sunderland but in the end decided he wanted to stay which we were delighted with.
It was a long day that last day of the transfer window. We had no time to replace him. One thing I’m about is if people want to move on and progress their careers then fine.
Sunderland are a huge club but at the time I thought John could stay and help us get promoted, which is what I spoke to him about.
For him to finish on so many goals, there’s going to be all sorts of clubs chasing him. We’ve got to play it by ear. We’ve already got replacements in line to come in if he does go.
McCann says there has already been interest in a player who only has one-year left on his contract and that he will only leave if a club matches their valuation:
There’s been quite a bit of interest in John, the club don’t need to sell him and John and his representatives are well aware of that but on the other hand, everyone has a value and Gavin [Baldwin, chief executive] and David [Blunt, chairman] have said if a valuation is met then that helps me in terms of another couple of positions that we’re looking at.
Obviously one of those will be in that area if John does go, that money will help us if he does go but at the minute the valuation is not where we think it should be.
We have a set valuation and I think it’s important.
He scored 26 goals last year and those type of strikers don’t come cheap.
The valuation will be there and again, the board and David have given me a real sense of belief that we can go and replace John with the targets we have in mind and maybe one or two other areas.
At the minute it’s not been met, we don’t have to sell and we’d love to keep John but that’s just where we are at the minute.
Bridges on failed Spurs move
Ahead of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, former Sunderland striker has been talking about how close he came to signing for Spurs and how Alan Sugar caused the deal to fall through.
Bridges was a big fan of Spurs growing up due to Chris Waddle playing for the club and says playing with two of his boyhood heroes in Waddle and Paul Stewart for Sunderland was special.
He goes on to say that when Sunderland accepted an offer from Spurs for his services, he travelled down to White Hart Lane with his agent to speak to the then manager George Graham, only for Alan Sugar to turn up, put Bridges off from signing for the club and lead to a move to Leeds United instead:
Playing with two heroes was special, but the day I was supposed to sign for Tottenham should have been the greatest.
Sliding doors. In the end, it was strange, a rollercoaster and ended with me making the move that defined my career: Leeds United.
Of course, I always wanted to play for Spurs. At school, I was Waddle, or Paul Gascoigne. Out of the blue, they called.
The moment Sunderland boss Peter Reid told me the club had accepted a five-million pound transfer from Spurs, I raced home. I remember seeing mum and dad: ‘Can you believe it’.
I told my agent: ‘I don’t care what the contract is, I just want to play for this team’.
It was strange dealing with George Graham as Spurs boss, for starters. To me, he was Arsenal through and through. I was thinking – you don’t have to sell me the club, I can probably sell it to you! But everything was going well; David Pleat, who I knew from the England under-21s, was the chief scout.
We were ready to sign.
Then the chairman, Alan Sugar, pulled up in his Rolls Royce. Well. That shattered my whole world.
“I haven’t got much time for you, young man,” I remember him saying. “Never heard of you, Sunderland reserve.”
“I’m putting a lot of money behind these guys. See you later. Good luck. All the best.”
I actually heard Graham mutter “oh my god, what a d*ckhead” under his breath. He wanted to smooth things over.
I turned to my manager and said: “Let’s get out of here”.
That was a hard decision but probably one of the best I’ve ever made. We drove off, me having seen my childhood dream just go up in smoke – I wasn’t welcome at the club and I didn’t want to be a part of it.
To rub it in, we turned on the radio and the news just announced I had signed with Spurs.
Then we rung Reid to tell him the deal was off. “I’ve already spent the money on two players,” he chimed back.
What was going on!
“But you better hurry up, because we’ve just accepted a bid from Leeds United. Can you stop off on the way up?”
I met chairman Peter Ridsdale, manager David O’Leary, knew they had signed some good players, had a good youth policy; something felt right.
And it was. Leeds sold Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to Atletico Madrid the next day; I scored 19 goals that season; Spurs had Teddy Sheringham and Steffen Iversen upfront so I wouldn’t have got a game; Graham was sacked six months later and Spurs had a bad time.