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Ljubinko Drulovic, Marinko Galic

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The Sunderland Trials (part one): Do you remember any of these randoms in red & white?

We’ve had a few players on trial at Sunderland over the years, but not many get to make an actual first-team appearance... We take a look at three players who lined up in friendly matches for the Lads.

1993: Alan Harper

Former Everton full back Alan Harper briefly joined Terry Butcher’s Roker Revolution, enjoying a spell on trial with the club in the summer of 1993.

32-year-old Harper, who had been released by the Toffees, lined up for the lads in a 2-1 win against Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park in Gary Hamilton’s testimonial. Don Goodman and Lee Howey were on the scoresheet for the lads – Howey’s goal coming only a minute after he replaced new signing Phil Gray, who was joined in the starting XI by fellow newcomers Alec Chamberlain, Derek Ferguson, Andy Melville and Iain Rodgerson.

Rather than Harper’s appearance, this match is best remembered for the car crash that followed it, involving all of our new permanent signings.

While Harper wasn’t involved, he never played for the lads again.

Despite Butcher offering him a one-year deal, he opted to join Luton Town on a two-year contract – much to Butcher’s fury.

He’s 32 and has no job. I’ll be surprised if Harper gets a better contract or a better club. I offered him a better contract than the one I took when I first came to Sunderland last year – and I was happy to sign.

Everton League Division One Champions 1987
Harper, second from left, front row, had been a key part in a successful Everton team
Photo by Simon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive

1996: Joel Tiehi

After sealing promotion to the top flight in his first full season, Peter Reid was on the lookout for striking reinforcements – and he was casting his net wide.

Phil Gray, who was on the verge of leaving the club on a free after his contract expired, was still with the club and lined up in Richard Ord’s testimonial game against Steaua Bucharest – and was joined on the field for the last 20 minutes or so by Joel Tiehi.

The experienced 31-year-old Ivory Coast forward was playing for Lens in France, and had caught Reid’s eye – and the manager invited him to join the club on trial.

He didn’t do much to impress in his brief cameo. Steaua, who featured the excellent Marius Lacatus and goalscorer Adrian Ilie, were a top team and tough opponents, and Tiehi disappeared from Roker as quickly as he emerged.

He’d had a decent career in France to that point, scoring one in three in Ligue 1, and ended up with a record of 28 goals in 50 games for Ivory Coast. Given our top scorer that season had four goals, he might have been worth a punt.

Joel Tiehi of the Ivory Coast is tackled by Happy Sichokolo of Zambia
Tiehi evades a tackle playing for Ivory Coast

1997: Marinko Galic

As we prepared for our first season at the Stadium of Light – after relegation from the Premiership – Peter Reid was busy rebuilding his team.

Lee Clark, Kevin Phillips, Chris Byrne and Edwin Zoetebier were among the players to sign up for the new chapter of the club’s history, but Reid wanted a new centre back - and Marinko Galic nearly filled that spot.

The 27-year-old Slovenian defender was leaving NK Zagreb and joined the team for the three-game tour of Ireland. He lined up for the club in the first game – a friendly at St Patrick's Athletic. We emerged 4-1 winners with Gallic playing the full 90 minutes, and he played an hour in the third game of the tour, too – a 2-1 win at Shelbourne.

Reid evidently decided the likes of Melville, Ord and Craddock – as well as Jan Eriksson, who played quite a bit that pre-season – were better bets and Galic was on his way back to Zagreb to join Croatia Zagreb.

Despite being a regular for his country, racking up 68 caps, he never really settled anywhere at club level. After a year at Croatia Zagreb, he spent a year at NS Mura, and a couple of seasons at NK Maribor before playing for another six clubs in seven seasons.


Marinko Galic
Galic played 68 times for his country, Slovenia

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