On this day in 2006, it was the deadline day to beat all deadline days, as Roy Keane – in typical no-nonsense style – completed six signings on only his third day in the job.
Slovakian defender Stanislav Varga returned to the club from Celtic, making the journey south with winger Ross Wallace.
Liam Miller signed from Manchester United, Dwight Yorke from Sydney FC (where he was playing for ex-Sunderland boss Terry Butcher) and Graham Kavanagh from Wigan to strengthen the midfield. David Connolly, meanwhile, also arrived from Wigan to boost Keane’s attack.
While all of the new signings played their part in what was ultimately a championship winning season, it was arguably Connolly who made the most significant on-field impact.
He had almost joined the club nine years earlier, allegedly turning down Peter Reid’s advances when he was at Watford in favour of a move to Feyenoord. That, of course, turned out pretty well for us, as Reid turned his attention to Connolly’s teammate, a certain K. Phillips.
Still, better late than never, and 29-year-old Connolly finally pulled on a red and white shirt after a rather nomadic career that had – to this point – taken in Wolves, Excelsior, West Ham, Leicester, Wimbledon and Wigan.
Connolly was one of four debutants in our next fixture a week and a half later – due to an international break – when he started up front in our 2-1 victory at Derby.
His career at Sunderland got off to a rather slow start – in fact, it wasn’t until November when he found the net for the first time, notching a last minute goal to seal a 3-1 victory over Colchester.
In December he really started to hit his straps, scoring the winner at home to Luton and a last minute equaliser against Burnley the following week, after we’d come back from two Kyle Lafferty goals.
Connolly ended the season as top scorer with 13 goals, including a cool-as-ice penalty in our promotion-sealing game against Burnley, after he’d missed one in the first half.
The following season in the top flight, however, he barely got a look in – starting only one league game, the second of the season at Birmingham; Keane preferring Michael Chopra and Roy O’Donovan as forward options. He actually stayed at Sunderland until the end of his contract in 2009, playing only five games in all competitions in his last two seasons at the club.