Welcome to the Roker Report ‘worst-ever’ draft, where six of our team pick their worst ever players and manager to make up their nightmare XI.
The rules are simple – the names of our six participants were drawn at random (although, in rather suspicious circumstances, our managing editor and overlord Gav, who was choosing the order, got the first pick...) and we each take a turn to choose people to be in our worst team.
Some picks were made strategically – after all, there are fewer managers and keepers to select from than outfield players, so it might be an idea to get them in early. Others were made based on sheer (lack of) ability, others on value for money.
Every day this week we’ll be publishing two rounds of selections, and at the end of the week we’ll be asking you to vote on who you think has managed to create the ‘best’ worst XI.
So here it is, lads and lasses, round one!
1 Gav - Callum McFadzean
As I’m fortunate enough to be allowed to make the first pick in this year’s draft, I have to grab the man who I consider to be the worst player that I have ever seen play in a Sunderland shirt - Callum McFadzean.
I cannot remember a player as bad as him that has ended up as a regular starter - time after time after time he made costly mistakes and he was, simply put, out of his depth.
Sunderland have never been lower than right now, languishing in League One, and managing to be the worst player in the lowest point in our history means that, despite his best efforts, Callum McFadzean makes my team.
2 Malc - Lee Camp
I could have made this a very short summary by saying “ditto what Gav said, but he’s a goalkeeper”. Camp joined us on deadline day in January 2018 and has to be one of the worst examples of last-minute loans (which is a big call, given some we have loaned in). Despite having a few Northern Ireland caps to his name from 2011-12, he lacked most of the qualities you need in a keeper - not only general goal line safety but distribution, presence and box ownership, instinctive shot-stopping and general confidence.
Given some of the great keepers we have had across the years he doesn't deserve to be in their company in an SAFC #1 shirt - he is not fit to shine the boots of Thomas Sorensen, Tony Norman or Jimmy Montgomery.
His April 2018 performance against Reading said it all. He fumbled a soft shot for one goal, and he gave away a penalty for the other, and we drew 2-2 as part of our short Championship residence. Easily the worst keeper I have seen in our nets. Couldn’t save for a bag of sweets (or kets, as we would say). Bobbins.
3 Matty - Laurens De Bock
Remember when Sunderland made the decision to sell Reece James to Doncaster, before waiting until deadline day to sign a replacement?
Episode 1,761 of Sunderland panic buying brought us the loan of Laurens De Bock, a player who would only make five league appearances before having his loan terminated. He was completely out of depth when he featured and never looked like he wanted to be in a red and white shirt.
The Belgian left-back spent the last season back in Belgium on loan, whilst Reece James has earned himself a move to the Championship with Blackpool - what an awful sequence of business that proved to be.
4 Jack - David Moyes
I thought it was important to snag a manager first as, in the whole in my lifetime, there’s not many who I could call the worst... however please welcome the energy vampire himself.
What an absolute disaster this bloke was. Always sounded like he thought he was bigger than the club and had us pegged for relegation from the first whistle. Signed a load of his mates who spent a lot of time being drunk, shite or completely incompetent.
To go from that night against Everton with Sam Allardyce to this charlatan still disgusts me to this day. Anyone with something about them wouldn’t have led us down the drain we currently reside in. Plus he didn’t have any eyebrows and that’s a questionable trait.
5 Martin - Jack Rodwell
This fella is the epitome of worst ever for me - a steaming, stinking symbol of our descent down the leagues. It took about 40 games or so to register his first win in a Sunderland shirt (he ended up being on the winning side ONCE in 44 starts for us) and who can forget the self-pitying Daily Mail article?
Hard done by Jack, can’t survive on his fortune. Or the smirks on STID?
A crap pro, a shite player, and someone I detest ever being involved in our great club.
£10m? He should have paid us. The fella literally is a loser.
6 Phil - Danny Graham
They always say that the key to a good side is to have a solid goalscorer, and that means that to have the worst Sunderland side possible I must pick the exact opposite.
Step forward Danny Graham, possibly the only player in the history of Sunderland AFC to be so bad that he could get in this team twice, once for his spell in the Premiership and once for his recent return under Phil Parkinson down in League One.
Graham was booed onto the pitch when he came off the bench for Swansea to miss a sitter the day before he signed for the club, but unfortunately, that didn't stop Martin O’Neill from paying £5 million for another slow goalless striker as he let Frazer Campbell leave for Cardiff.
In 51 league games across his two spells at the club, Graham managed just one goal and even that was one that literally deflected in off his arse away at Everton under Dick Advocaat. Never mind the worst striker in the club’s history, Graham is probably the worst player to wear the red and white stripes on so many occasions.
7 Phil - Jason Steele
Ideally, I would have liked to bookend my side with two tramp lookalikes and have Lee Camp in goal, but since Malc has already nabbed our worst ‘keeper from 2017/18 I’ll have to take a close second.
It tells you everything you need to know about Jason Steele that he was unable to retain the starting spot when Camp was the only other option, but if you’re still in doubt as to how bad the current Brighton “goalkeeper” was then just take a look at his sending off against QPR. I think most of the inebriated Sunderland fans - because who hadn’t turned to drink by March 2018 - would have given us a better chance of a clean sheet than Mr. Steele.
8 Martin - Kelvin Davis
This bloke’s not called calamity Kelvin for no reason.
That we replaced Poom and Myhre with this clown compounds the issue. This was a keeper who couldn’t stand straight, kick straight, or dive straight.
Want to score against Kelvin Davis? Shoot low across him - nailed on goal. He actually became shorter when he dived.
He was lobbed by Matt Taylor from Southwick chippy, dropped for three-year-old Ben Alnwick, and then put back into the side as Alnwick’s inclusion was bordering on child cruelty. ‘Mick? Esther Ranzen’s on the phone again.’
Calamity Kelvin gets in my team, however, because of his display at home to Everton on New Year’s Eve. We were in desperate need of a win. 0-0 in the dying moments, Davis wastes f***ing time taking a goal kick. Wastes time. ‘It’s a point lads, something to build on’.
Well, it might have been, if he hadn’t let Cahill head in moments later.
9 Jack - Michael Ingham
Sunderland, in my history of watching, have generally always been blessed with great goalkeepers: Sorensen; Poom; Gordon - the list goes on.
Michael Ingham is not of that ilk.
Only making a tiny amount of appearances in a 6 year stint at the club with none of Peter Reid, Howard Wilkinson, or Mick McCarthy thinking he was up to much. It was the final of these three that was forced to use him in an occasion that stands out for me.
Coming in for the solid Thomas Myhre in Mick McCarthy’s promotion season, and was a complete calamity. The Ipswich game was important in the race to the Premier League, and his ineptness could have cost us. It was little surprise when McCarthy opted for then youth keeper Ben Alnwick for the rest of the run-in, who at least showed some competency.
Crisp packets for wrists and just seemed to hover around the club for an eternity without ever being anywhere near what we needed or wanted.
10 Matty - Dan Smith
Despite making three Premier League appearances as a youngster, Dan Smith spent the majority of his career in non-league football and is remembered by the most for a horror tackle which put Arsenal’s Abou Diaby out of action for eight months.
He was also sent off on his debut against Cheltenham Town in the League Cup for picking up two yellow cards, which perhaps should have been an indicator that he was not Premier League quality.
This is perhaps a harsh inclusion given he was young at the time, but I think Smith’s inclusion in the first-team showed just how much Sunderland’s team lacked both quality and depth that season.
11 Malc - Will Grigg
While some of my picks for this article are based on “worst” meaning “least good at football”, others within my picks are related to falls from grace and/or major disappointments. Many players we have brought in came with a lot of hype and expectation, and after smashing the league one transfer record to bring in Will Grigg on deadline day, January 2019 (yes another great bit of business by our illustrious owners in the winter window), he has flopped better than a rabbit’s ear.
He is quoted to have said he wished he didn’t leave Wigan, and I wish he didn’t too, though at the time we hoped to see him tear up the league in place of Maja. £3m for 5 goals in almost 50 games. £600k a goal, and one every 9-10 games. Shocking.
In his 2 loan spells with MK Dons (one in 2014-15 and another one last season) he has scored every 2.3 games. What difference is there to cite? His attitude and application have to be the issue.
He never moved to the area, never really committed himself to the club or the fans, and never deserved the hope and expectation the supporters had of him in that January.
Hopefully, someone buys him and gets him out of the way of our 2021-22 rebuild, as I’m sick of hearing his name, and that song....please, someone get me a match...
12 Gav - Milton Nunez
Have Sunderland ever made a more embarrassing signing?
Nunez was rolled out in front of the Stadium of Light crowd and treated like a star attraction when he arrived in 2000 – over 30,000 of us even turned up for a reserve game to watch him play! What transpired was probably the most comical chain of events in the club’s history, he was tiny, couldn’t kick the ball straight, and looked like a competition winner in his oversized red and white shirt.
Even to this day, the real reasons behind how Nunez ever ended up at Sunderland remains a mystery. His name belongs right up there with Ali Dia to Southampton as one of the most mental pieces of transfer business in the history of English football. It’s like someone, somewhere was having a laugh and decided they’d inflict Nunez upon us.
I want him up front in my side.