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Sunderland Assistant Manager Malcolm Crosby

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On This Day (19 July 1992): Most expensive Sunderland midfielder signs on, and new TV deal

On this day 29 years ago, Sunderland manager Malcolm Crosby signed Paul Bracewell’s midfield replacement – and in the process set a new club record for a player in that position.

On this day 29 years ago, Malcolm Crosby sealed the £650,000 deal to make Shaun Cunnington the most expensive midfield player in the club’s history.

The 26-year-old had signed at Roker Park from Grimsby Town where he was club captain, and was Crosby’s choice to replace Paul Bracewell as his main man in the middle of the park after Bracewell had signed for Newcastle United.

The former Everton midfielder and Sunderland captain had joined Kevin Keegan’s revolution up the road following our FA Cup final defeat against Liverpool, and following the offer of a one-year contract from the Roker hierarchy. Bracewell became a free agent once he rejected the offer and Keegan swooped in with a three-year deal, with a tribunal setting the fee at £250,000.

The fee paid for Cunnington was a record fee received by Grimsby, and the attacking midfielder was hoping for a successful promotion season with Sunderland after experiencing a step up the football league ladder previously with the Lincolnshire side – and was also looking forward to working once again with Crosby.

I have sampled promotion twice with Grimsby. It’s a great feeling. I think Sunderland have a strong squad and we should be there or thereabouts in the First Division next season.

I briefly played briefly with Malcolm Crosby at Wrexham and he was a breath of fresh air. I’m just pleased that Malcolm remembered me. Sunderland is such a big club and the fans are so passionate.

They love their football in the North-East and I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Terry Butcher Sunderland 1992
Terry Butcher had also signed as a free agent in the summer of 1992
Photo by Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive

Cunnington had signed for Grimsby in 1987 for £55,000 from Wrexham where he played alongside Crosby for five games in 1984 as he was coming through the ranks at the Racecourse Ground.

This was the Sunderland manager’s third signing of the summer after paying £220,000 for Millwall winger John Colquhoun and taking on Terry Butcher as a free agent. And, with the estimated income of £500,000 from the outgoing transfers of Paul Bracewell and Paul Hardyman, who had joined Bristol Rovers, Crosby was looking into the possibility of further deals.

I’m delighted to get Shaun Cunnington. He is a very good box-to-box player. There is more money to spend, but I could well start the season with what I’ve got.

With Tony Norman, Anton Rogan and Don Goodman taking the distinction of the most expensive goalkeeper, defender and striker respectively, the £650,000 fee for Cunnington meant it was Sunderland’s highest ever fee paid for a midfield player and brought Crosby’s summer spending up to £870,000.

John Colquhoun of Heart of Midlothian
John Colquhoun in action for Heart of Midlothian

In other news, a deal was reached between the Football League and ITV which meant that live domestic football would be available without the need for a satellite dish. The deal would result in a Sunday afternoon choice between the Premier League on BSkyB, a First Division clash on ITV and a Serie A fixture on Channel 4, where it was also announced that 30 Italian top-flight fixtures would be screened from September.

The regional deal in the North-East had yet to be reached and Tyne Tees were keen to negotiate an agreement with Sunderland and Newcastle United. The deal for the Premier League, which was only weeks away, was worth £304 million over five years for 60 live Premier League fixtures a season, that for the first time would be subject to a monthly subscription.

Also in other news, Chris Waddle returned to English football as he completed a £1 million from French champions Marseille to join Trevor Francis at Sheffield Wednesday. The 31-year-old was dropped by England manager Graham Taylor from the national team for the European Championships in Sweden and was looking for a possible recall by impressing for Wednesday in the newly created Premier League.

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