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Roker Roundup: Rob McElhenney on falling in love with Sunderland & Lionel Perez on SAFC stint

Hollywood superstar Rob McElhenney has been talking about how he fell in love with Sunderland; Lionel Perez chats about his time at SAFC (& Newcastle...); and Tyias Browning gets called up by China.

Perez on Sunderland career & the worst move of his life

Former Sunderland goalkeeper Lionel Perez made the controversial move to Newcastle United back in 1998 but describes that decision as the worst move of his life.

Speaking to 100 Years of Coconuts, a Cambridge United site, Perez discussed the best moment of his career, playing for Sunderland, being on the pitch for the very first game at the Stadium of Light and crying after the Play-Off Final defeat to Charlton Athletic:

It was the best moment of my life, footballistically talking, because I played in front of 40,000 people, I played at Roker Park, I played the first game at the Stadium of Light.

Yes, it was amazing.

I played at Wembley which was my worst souvenir of football and at the same time my best because it was in Wembley.

It was the worst one because we shouldn’t have lost this game and I remember that it’s the only game [of my career] that I cried after the game because I was so disappointed for the fans, for the city, for myself.

Perez later revealed that he knew he was leaving the club during the Final, due to Peter Reid delaying contract discussions but feels as if he would have stayed had the club been promoted.

However, the day after the final, the French goalkeeper got a letter from Sunderland saying he was free to leave the club and Newcastle manager Kenny Dalglish wasted no time in tempting the now 54-year-old to sign for his club:

I knew I was going to leave the club. I was at the end of my contract and Peter Reid was making me wait to speak for another contract...I felt as if we were winning this game that I was still in Sunderland, with another goalkeeper perhaps, but I will sign a contract.

The day after we lost at Wembley, I received a letter saying I was free to move and the day after I received a phone call from Kenny Dalglish telling me if I wanted to come to Newcastle.

I thought ‘F**k me, it’s a fantastic place here, I live in Ponteland, I live already in the right place, I earn quite good money, I love this area, I love these people, I love this country, my kids were born over there. I want to stay here.’

I’m from the South of France but I fell in love with the North East. It was to look after myself and my family.

That move transpired to be the worst move of Perez’s life, explaining that he does not like their fans and they do not like him:

It was the worst move in my life. The fans in Newcastle won’t be very happy but they don’t like me and I don’t like them. It was like a bad move for them, for me. I took the money and I am not ashamed about that, if I was to do it again I would take more.

You can watch the full 100 Years of Coconuts interview with Lionel Perez by pressing play on the YouTube video below:

English Soccer - Sunderland v Manchester United Photo by Matthew Ashton/EMPICS via Getty Images

McElhenney on falling in love with Sunderland

Hollywood duo Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds surprisingly bought National League outfit Wrexham earlier in the season.

Speaking to the BBC about the takeover, McElhenney explained that he had fallen in love with Sunderland after watching the Netflix documentary Sunderland ‘Til I Die but because he could not afford to purchase the club, had switched his sights onto the Red Dragons instead:

I remember the moment. I was sitting on the couch, I was watching Sunderland ‘Til I Die. And I was falling in love with this team and these people and the story.

In all honesty it was the first time I had understood the concept of promotion and relegation. I didn’t know that that’s how the system worked.

So I opened my computer and just started Google-searching promotion and relegation. I recognised that if you can get relegated, of course then you can also get promoted.

Then I looked up how many leagues there are and realising there are five leagues with the National League included… that if you could ostensibly go down, you could go up.

So even though I couldn’t afford to buy say Liverpool or Sunderland for that matter or Man City, Man U, maybe we could afford to buy a lower-league team and have them ascend through the ranks.

And maybe there are a lot of clubs that might be in trouble because of Covid. Then I just looked up at her and said, ‘I think I want to buy a football team’.

It was all within like 20 minutes. She was like, ‘Okay’. And I said, ‘No I think I am going to do this’.

Celebrities Visit Build - February 5, 2020 Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Former loanee called up by China

Ex-Sunderland loanee Tyias Browning made a move to China with Guangzhou Evergrande after departing Everton in February 2019.

Browning, who has a Chinese grandfather, officially became a Chinese citizen in September of the year and took the name Jiang Guangtai.

The 26-year-old had played for England at youth level, all the way up to the under-21s, but has now overcome red tape and been called up to the Chinese National Team for their upcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.

Another former Everton defender in Li Tie is China’s head coach and he has also called up former Arsenal and Brentford midfielder Nico Yennaris who is now known as Li Ke.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,
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