His Sunderland career didn’t get off to the best of starts.
Brought in on a free from Gillingham during Mick McCarthy’s horrendously underfunded pre-season of 2005 (horrendously underfunded, yes, but what he did have was horrendously misspent, too), Nyron’s first act in red and white stripes, during the first game of the season against Charlton, was to let the ball run under his foot and roll out for a throw in.
A few games later there was that backpass, and it looked as though, with the best will in the world, we had a player who should be nowhere near the Premier League. Despite that, however, he was always backed by the crowd, who appreciated his wholehearted approach and desire to improve.
Enter Roy Keane.
Nosworthy was one of the most unlikely beneficiaries of Keane’s spell at Sunderland. While thoughts of Nyron may have disrupted Roy’s romantic dinner with his missus on more than occasion, he transformed ‘Nuggsy’ into a terrific centre back, forming a mightily effective partnership with Jonny Evans in particular, which enabled him to really maximise his strengths.
While championship forwards tried to take the ball past Nyron, he simply said, ‘no, no, no’, and during our first season under Keane in the Premier League, Nosworthy made 29 starts – quite a remarkable turnaround – as the team successfully fought for survival.
Only one thing was missing. A goal.
And on this day 13 years ago, that wrong was put right.
We seemed to like Portugal for a pre-season jaunt around this time – stationed in the Algarve, we faced Sporting Lisbon in the four-team Albuferia Cup.
Keano had been back in England, trying to make some headway in the transfer market (note to people panicking about incoming this season, at this point of the 2008-09 pre-season we had yet to make a signing). The ‘Spurs four’ were high on his hit list. Chimbonda seemed keen enough, saying:
I travelled to meet Roy Keane at Sunderland’s training ground.
I was extremely impressed with what he had to say. The opportunity excites me and I hope he was impressed with what I had to say. Now it is down to the club to sort out the personal terms and I will wait to see what happens.
Chimbonda, of course, (unfortunately) did sign, along with Tainio and Malbranque; the small matter of an earthquake keeping Younes Kaboul away from the Stadium of Light, for a few years at least.
Keane flew into the Algarve to witness a solid win for his team against good opposition, and the rarest of moments: a Nosworthy goal.
At halftime Sunderland were trailing to a goal from Ronny – however, sub Roy O’Donovan pulled one back shortly after the interval.
Heading into the last ten minutes, things got a little feisty. Michael Chopra, who’d come on as a sub for skipper Dean Whitehead, kicked out in frustration at Marco Caneira. It wasn’t too dangerous, but the ref wasn’t having any of it – red card, Chopra went off.
And so did Keane.
The manager was furious with the decision of Bruno Paixao, knowing it could mean a three-game ban for his striker, and he let the ref know in no uncertain terms.
Keane received the night’s second red, and off he went, too.
It was probably well-timed, because he’d have gotten a far better view on what was a piece of SAFC history.
A Stokes corner from the right was met by a powerful Nosworthy header, which clattered the bottom of the crossbar before finding its way to the back of the net.
Get in Nuggsy lad!
To top it off, he’d scored while wearing the captain’s armband after Whitehead’s substitution.
Stokes himself scored a nice goal – something he did all too rarely at Sunderland – to seal a 3-1 win. And Sunderland were the proud winners of the (not so) prestigious Albaferia Cup.
Sunderland: Gordon (Fulop 46), Bardsley (Anderson 46) Wallace (Higginbotham 46), Yorke (Kavanagh 46), Nosworthy, Collins, Edwards (O’Donovan 46), Whitehead (Chopra 62), Murphy (Prica 62), Reid (Leadbitter 46), Richardson (Stokes 46).
Goals: O’Donovan 52, Nosworthy 84, Stokes 85