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The Curse of the former player: Sunderland’s unfortunate habit of conceding to former players

We have a bit of a habit of letting our old players score goals against us - Toby Phipps picks out just five occasions where Sunderland did a Sunderland...

Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Sunderland face Wigan at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with the visitors having no less than five former Sunderland players amongst their ranks.

This is bound to cause a feeling of dread in all Sunderland fans, who have now become accustomed to former players netting against the Black Cats.

I’ve taken a look at five such examples of this occurring, from the somewhat humorous to the downright infuriating, this list will bring back some not so fond memories for Sunderland fans.


5: Declan John

Kicking off the list with an entry it is tricky not to chuckle at.

Left back Declan John’s looping strike into the top corner was the final goal in a six-nil drubbing at Bolton last season, and capped off what was a miserable day all round for Lee Johnson’s side.

John joined Sunderland on loan from Swansea in January of 2020 before going on to make zero appearances in a Sunderland shirt, making it inevitable that he would one day score against us if he was given the chance.

The match would prove to be Johnson’s final as manager as he was eventually replaced by Alex Neil who guided Sunderland to promotion via the play-offs.

All’s well that ends well I suppose.

Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - University of Bolton Stadium Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

4: Connor Wickham

Up next is striker Connor Wickham, who makes the list as he has returned to the Stadium of Light to score in two separate matches.

The first of these came in March 2016 as Wickham scored twice in six second half minutes to give Crystal Palace the lead following Dame N’Doye’s opener.

This was made even more frustrating given the fact the game was a huge opportunity to get a vital win in our annual quest for survival.

Fortunately, a 90th minute Fabio Borini goal clinched a late point for the Lads, enough to drag out of the relegation zone on goal difference at the time. Wickham would eventually go on to join MK Dons last season whom he scored just one league goal for, typically this would come at the Stadium of Light as MK were 2-1 victors on that occasion.

Sunderland v Milton Keynes Dons - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

3: Chris Maguire

Chris Maguire was a player that divided Sunderland fans throughout his time at the club. However, there can be no doubt Sunderland fans were sick of the Scotsman by the time the final whistle had blown when Lincoln visited the Stadium of Light last season.

Maguire had returned to his old stomping ground and scored a hat-trick to sink his former employers.

After the first of these goals, Maguire sprinted over to the Sunderland bench to celebrate in the face of Sunderland manager Lee Johnson.

It would be another miserable day for Johnson as Maguire completed his hat-trick in the second half, with goals either side of a Ross Stewart strike for the hosts.

To make matters worse, all of this occurred after Maguire should have seen red for a horrendous lunge on Carl Winchester just ten minutes into the game.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2: Mikael Mandron

Like previous entrant John, Mandron made very little impact at Sunderland after coming through the club’s academy.

This of course did not stop the Frenchman from scoring not once but twice in a 2-2 draw at the Stadium of Light in 2020.

Both Mandron’s goals, including a 96th minute equaliser, came after the home team had failed to clear long throw-ins.

The game summed up the majority of our time in League One as the two dropped points meant we missed out on a playoff spot after the season was cancelled due to Covid just days later.

It wasn’t just Mandron’s goals that made the game a strange one however, as Kyle Lafferty also scored his only two goals in a Sunderland shirt.

Sunderland v Gillingham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

1: Darren Bent

Saving the worst until last here with a goal that helped relegate Sunderland to the third tier for just the second time in our history.

Bent was a player formerly loved by the Sunderland fansbase, that was until he forced through a move to Aston Villa in 2011. When he returned to Stadium of Light in 2018, he did so representing Burton Albion.

He came on to a chorus of boos from the home support as a second-half substitute with Sunderland 1-0 up courtesy of a Paddy McNair goal.

In the 86th minute the inevitable happened as Bent finished past Jason Steele from close range to level the scores. Things got bad to worse just six minutes later as a 92nd minute Liam Boyce header consigned Sunderland to their fate.

Fingers crossed the likes of Ashley Fletcher and Nathan Broadhead don’t add their names to his already long list on Saturday.

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