Alec Chamberlain had joined Sunderland during Terry Butcher’s summer transfer splurge in 1993, and to be fair to the former Luton keeper he’d done okay.
Ousting the popular Tony Norman was never going to be an easy task, and it was one that was made a lot more difficult by booting the ball off Wolves’ Mike Small and in to the Fulwell End goal in one of his early Roker Park appearances.
Chamberlain had recovered pretty well, and while he had some decent runs in the team you always got the sense he was never the comfortable first choice. In fact, when Peter Reid arrived at the club a few months earlier, Chamberlain had been on loan at Liverpool – he’d gone there as part of the deal for Dominic Matteo, to provide some experience back up to David James – and had been on the bench as Liverpool won the League Cup against Bolton.
Reidy wasn’t convinced by his keeper options. Tony Norman left on a free transfer to Huddersfield, and Chamberlain was hawked about while Reid made USA keeper Brad Friedel his number one target. Chamberlain, to his credit, had impressed during Sunderland’s tour of Ireland in pre-season.
Friedel had been denied a couple of moves to England before – work permit issues of course. Firstly Brian Clough tried to sign him for Forest, then Kevin Keegan tried to get him for the mags. Both fell through, so the writing should have been on the wall really.
But when’s that ever stopped Sunderland?
After a successful trial, Friedel agreed terms and signed – subject to the work permit.
To be fair, he was an international keeper, and we must have thought we’d have a good chance. At this point in the pre-season, we were operating in the belief that it was a when – not if – his permit came through.
A department of employment spokesperson – Carol McCall – said:
We could not venture a guess whether Friedel will be available for the kick-off to Sunderland’s season in the middle of next month. We received their application on July 20.
Of course, Friedel’s application wasn’t successful, and he ended up spending time at Galatasaray before Liverpool rolled the dice two seasons later and found it to be a case of fourth time lucky.
Chamberlain stayed at Sunderland that summer, and played until January – but a shaky performance at Old Trafford made Reid’s mind up once and for all, and he was replaced by the young, inexperienced, but incredibly talented Shay Given.
Friedel, of course, turned out to be a cracking Premier League keeper for Liverpool, Villa and Spurs, while we lurched from Tony Coton to Lionel Perez and Edwin Zoetebier before finally finding a really good one in Thomas Sorensen.