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On This Day (6 April 2010): Lorik Cana sidelined as rumours of Bruce fall out downplayed

The Sunderland captain dropped off the bench after ‘aggravating his groin’ in warm up. Or was there something more to it?

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

At the time, the departure of Lorik Cana seemed to come out of the blue. He’d arrived from Marseille in a blaze of glory (or, glorious YouTube clips, to be more precise) the previous summer, had immediately been appointed club captain.

He’d shown great leadership on the field, and turned in some excellent displays. His performance against Liverpool in the beachball game is always remembered in particular, but alongside fellow new signing Lee Cattermole, he’d helped make Sunderland a completely different proposition than the one that had stayed up by the skin of its teeth the season before.

So, when news broke in the summer of 2010 that Cana had been transferred to Galatasaray for pretty much the same as we’d paid for him, something seemed amiss. There’d been no speculation he might depart, he was off.

But, maybe there was a bit of a clue in the press 12 years ago today, after reports of Cana and Bruce falling out were mentioned in dispatches.

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Cana in a typical pose
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Cana had only been named on the bench in the previous game, at home to Spurs (the Zenden goal game). Mysteriously, when the team was re-announced at kick off, Cana’s name was missing, with youngster Michael Liddle taking his place on the bench.

A groin injury was the official line, but rumours were strong that Bruce’s team selection had led to a bust up before kick off between skipper and manager, and that was the reason behind Cana’s non-appearance.

Bruce said:

Lorik felt sore in the week and he felt it again in the warm-up. I won’t risk anyone at this stage of the season.

We’ll see how he is.

Cana had spoken earlier in the week about his time so far at the club, and he didn’t give any indication he may be departing in a few months’ time.

It has been great but it has not always been easy.

You have to expect that with a team like Sunderland things are not always going to be alright – we’re going to have some tough moments because we only just stayed up the year before.

But it’s a great experience, I have enjoyed every game.

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but the passion and spirit of the football in England is absolutely fantastic.

In Cana’s absence, Jordan Henderson and David Meyler produced cracking performances. At the time, Meyler arguably looked the stronger prospect. It’s easy to forget just how impressive he was before injuries took hold.

The win over Spurs was only Sunderland’s third in 13 games, and Cana was again left out of the team altogether the following week, as we went down 1-0 to West Ham at Upton Park, and was absent for the game at home to Burnley that followed.

He was back on the bench the following week, away at Hull, when Alan Hutton was sent off for being head butted by Jozy Altidore, and returned to the starting line up for the season’s penultimate game, at home to Manchester United.

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Get in to him!
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

As it turned out, it was Cana’s last appearance at the Stadium of Light. It was also the game in which Meyler suffered an injury that was initially predicted to keep him out for two years.

His final game for the lads came at Wolves the following week – he was subbed for Benjani with 15 minutes left, as we finished the game with only 9 men following red cards for Michael Turner and debutant Jack Colback.

Given Cana’s dubious disciplinary record 11 yellows and one red in 38 games, it was probably a rather fitting way for his teammates to see him off.

I think it was a real shame we let Cana leave so early into his contract. A tough-tackling midfielder and a genuine leader – as close to Kevin Ball as we’ve ever get – he was also a top, top player.

Being able to attract a player of his calibre from Marseille was significant at the time, and spoke volumes about the ambition of the club.

Sadly, so too did his departure.

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