Chris Wynn says... Jonny Evans!
With 35 appearances at Sunderland, I’m not sure many loan signings have had the impact that Jonny Evans had in his time at the Stadium of Light.
Not too many people would have heard of the name when Roy Keane went back to his former boss Sir Alex Ferguson to aquire his services in January 2007, but those who saw him play for Sunderland will no doubt remember him to this day.
Making his debut for Sunderland in an FA Cup tie away to Preston North End, he would join the club as Roy Keane’s impressive start to his time at Sunderland began to stutter slightly.
As Sunderland sat 10th in the Coca-Cola Championship, after a run of two wins in six games and finding ourselves dumped out of the FA Cup at Preston North End, Jonny Evans got into his stride and showed his class at that level, despite turning 19-years-old the week he signed for Sunderland.
We would then go on a run that included one more defeat until the end of the season as Roy Keane’s side lifted the title and were promoted to the Premier League.
Jonny Evans more than played his part in this incredible run showing composure, grace and leadership of a player in his prime, not someone who was still a teenager as he went on to be voted young player of the year.
Bids of £10 million plus were rumoured during the close season but selling the young Northern Ireland international was never a thought that Manchester United had entertained.
We would have to wait until the next Janaury window to see him pull on the red and white stripes again as Sunderland again signed the now 20-year-old on loan for the rest of the season. He would sign as Roy Keane’s first crack at management in the Premier League was heading off course as we sat in 18th position occupying a relegation place.
As previously, Evans would again show his pedigree as a Premier League player and help Sunderland survive relegation and re-establish ourselves as a Premier League club ending with a respectable 15th place finish.
Jonny Evans played a huge part in Roy Keane’s story at Sunderland and for that should be considered as one of our greatest loan signings.
Phil Butler - Danny Welbeck
Like Jonny Evans at the other end of the pitch, Danny Welbeck was another man Sunderland signed on loan during the reign of a former Manchester United player - this time Steve Bruce.
Although he was over shadowed by the goalscoring of Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan who partnered Welbeck upfront, its the work rate and movement of Welbeck as a second striker that meant Sunderland were able to make their 4-4-2 formation work without being over ran in midfield.
The role of second-fiddle which Welbeck played to the two more prolific strikers explains his mediocre goalscoring reecord of six goals in 26 league appearances, and show how looking at Welbeck’s scoring rate fails to demontrate his importance to the team, and perhaps explains why he could be an unpopular choice.
What does show the importance of Welbeck to the Sunderland team is the difference in results when the loanee was unavailible. During his two month injury between January and March Sunderland won just one game from seven, and another injury in late April meant he also missed the end of the season. Although the sale of Darren Bent is frequently identified as the cause of Sunderland’s poor form in the second half of the season, if Sunderland had Danny Welbeck fit to partner Bent’s natural replacement in Gyan, theres a good chance their form would have held up after their top scorer’s departure to Aston Villa.
Mark Carrick says... Yann M’Vila!
Sunderland have had some gems from the loan market down the years.
From Peter Beagrie in the early 90s, to Shay Given five years later, or Jonny Evans a decade after that, there have been some real success stories from their time on Wearside.
But, for me, one man embodies all the attributes and hero-status of the above three without the tainted aftermath of the loan spell like a Ki or a Borini. For me, Yann M’Vila was the best loan signing, not only for his footballing abilities, but for the way Sunderland fans took him to their heart and how desperate he was to be part of our long-term future.
Signed in the summer of 2015 by Dick Advocaat, this relatively unknown Frenchman came with a somewhat patchy reputation after fallouts at Rennes, Rubin Kazan and Inter.
In his first game for the club, an U21 match against Norwich, M’Vila was sent off for violent conduct on 69 minutes. Not the best of starts, but later that month a free-kick against Villa brought him very much to the attention of the Sunderland crowd for all the right reasons. As autumn turned to winter, M’vila was showing his class, running games and winning accolades along the way.
By February, the French midfielder was talking about signing permanently and hoping a deal could be done with Kazan, who held his contract until December. Sam Allardyce was equally keen to sign M’vila, who made 40 appearances for Sunderland during the 2015-16 season.
Yet we all know how that story ended. Sunderland were unwilling to pay a fee in the summer, leaving the fans and the player equally devasted. Despite pre-contract terms being signed for January 2017, a combination of Sunderland’s situation under David Moyes and a new manager at Kazan meant M’vila never did join us permanently.
Speaking about the situation from a dressing room point of view, Jan Kirchhoff commented how “he had such a huge impact on our game. As a teammate I felt him missing [when he left]. Him leaving made a huge impact and I felt the quality went down when he wasn’t in the team. Yann was a cornerstone to our success. He’s an outstanding talent.”
M’vila did in 2015 what Beagrie, Given and Evans all did – they made the team better. They all won the hearts of the fans and looked at home in a Sunderland shirt. But what separates M’vila, for me, was the passion he showed for the club. He belonged with us. Sunderland was the remaking of him, and he was a key part of Allardyce’s rebuilding of Sunderland. He wasn’t a Borini, going back to his home club demanding better, or a Danny Rose, simply happy to have played his part. No, M’vila was heartbroken when Sunderland failed to sign him in the summer of 2016, and he remains in our hearts in a way only the best of players do. For me, Yann M’vila is the one loanee who deserved the shirt for a lot longer than he did.
Rich Speight says... Shay Given!
Signed during the January of 1996 from Blackburn Rovers having had a great loan spell at Swindon earlier in the season, in my mind Shay Given was the final piece of the jigsaw for Peter Reid’s Division 1 winning mid-1990s Sunderland side.
At 20 years of age, he was extraordinarily young to come straight in and replace an experienced keeper like Alec Chamberlain. David Preece, who was knocked down the pecking-order by Given’s arrival, has written about how it was clear from the very first training session that the Irishman was a class act, with highly developed skills in distributing the ball. Given’s record for Sunderland was fantastic, with Sunderland losing only 1 of the 17 games in which he played, and conceding a mere 11 goals along the way.
He rapidly became one of my favourite players, and I remember being heatbroken when he was signed on a permanent deal by Newcastle United following our promotion to the Premier League (I kept the poster that had been on up on my wall under my bed for month just in case he decided he’d made the wrong decision and rejoined us).
Alas, he never did and went on to make over 350 appearances for our monochrome cousins up the road. Despite not being able to get near Kieran Richardson’s free kick in the 2008 Wear-Tyne derby, is widely recognised as one of the outstanding Premier League keepers of the 2000s, winning 134 caps for the Republic of Ireland along the way.
Sam Blakey says... Fabio Borini!
Thinking back it would seem that we have had a lot of successful loan signings that were influential during their season at the club, however I personally can not look past Borini, and how much he achieved during the 2013/14 season.
Borini scored 7 goals for the club during his stint on loan however the significant games in which he scored are important for me. I think we can all remember his first goal for the club and the celebrations that followed, but for anyone who is struggling it was the winner against the mags at the stadium to make it 2-1. His next two goals for the club were also in highly important matches, netting in both the capital one cup quarter final against Chelsea (equalising before Ki winning it for us in extra time) and the semi final first leg against Man Utd (a penalty to put is 2-1 infront on aggregate going into the second leg).
At the time Borini might have only been on loan, however he felt a certain fit for Sunderland. This was highlighted by the way in which he stepped up to take a spot kick at St. James’ Park. At the time the score was 0-0, you would imagine the pressure would be immense taking a penalty at your local rivals stadium, however the way in which he laughed at Tim Krul’s attempts to put him off before sticking it in the top corner and standing on the advertising boards, infuriating thousands of mags, will stay with me forever.
Although I’ve already mentioned some massively important goals Borini scored in equally important games for us, his most famous goal for Sunderland in my opinion remains his strike against Manchester City in the league cup final. I remember being in Wembley and finding out that Borini was starting upfront and thinking I fancy him with his pace up against Demichelis, and boy was I right! The way in which he skips past him and then gets the better of Kompany before finishing brilliantly into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot was superb and the commentary pretty much summed up the moment, ‘Borini... he’s all alone and he’s scored! Sensation at Wembley for Sunderland, and Fabio Borini!’ After the goal, Borini almost got in again to make it 2-0, and would have done so if not for probably the best recovery run and tackle I’ve ever seen from Vincent Kompany. Borini put us well on course to win our first trophy since 1973, and if Yaya Toure didn’t have a magic right foot I think it’s safe to say there would be a statue outside the Stadium of Light - depicting Fabio doing his famous hand bite celebration at Wembley - and rightly so!
To sum up Borini had one of the best loan seasons I’ve seen a player have at Sunderland, scoring in both derbys, helping us get to a cup final and also giving us the lead in it, as well as playing an important role in the iconic great escape miracle under Gus Poyet. Although Borini signed permanently for the club a few years later, his best time at Sunderland for me, will always be his loan spell.
Fabio is, and will always be, a Sunderland legend!