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On This Day (8 July 2016): Calm before the storm as Big Sam’s move for ex-mag falls through

The Inter Milan defender had been expected to arrive on Wearside, but news broke the deal had collapsed. Much like the sand Ellis Short’s Sunderland was built upon.

Photo by Claudio Villa - Inter/FC Internazionale via Getty Images

Looking back, it was obvious after Roy Hodgson left the England job. It was Big Sam’s time – his credentials rubber-stamped after the excellent job he’d done with Sunderland.

But, as always in football, we’d convinced ourselves it wouldn’t be.

He’s just got here. He’s an ex-Sunderland player. He’ll remain loyal to the players. The fans. He’ll want to stay and really establish us as a Premier League force.

Of course, he didn’t. He was off like a shot as soon as England made eyes over the carvery. Couldn’t blame him, in truth. But for a couple of weeks, we convinced ourselves it wouldn’t happen.

Arsene Wenger or Harry Redknapp – the other two leading candidates – would be a far better fit for the suits at St George’s Park, surely.

By virtue of the fact they prefer their wine by the glass, they would have been, as it turned out.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Camp - Day 2
Big Sam was leading Sunderland’s pre-season preparations in Austria – but the international rumour mill was in full flow
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Still, six years ago today (How is it only that long? It seems an eternity,) Big Sam’s name was just starting to get mentioned as a possible replacement for Hodgson, and optimism was still running high after our excellent form in the second half of the season – topped off by a superb run-in – had seen us escape relegation at the expense of Newcastle.

Having signed Kone, Khazir and Kirchhoff (and Dame N’Doye) in January, Allardyce had proven his credentials in the transfer market – identifying positions in which we needed strengthening and signing players to fill those gaps.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

As well as planning on getting a move for Yann M’Vila, who’d spent the season on loan with us, Allardyce was busy replacing another loanee – DeAndre Yedlin.

The young Spurs full-back had spent a decent enough season at Sunderland, had certainly improved under Allardyce, but Big Sam baulked at Daniel Levy’s £6m asking price, and rightly so in my view.

Instead, he saw greater value in Davide Santon of Inter Milan, putting in an offer of £3m for the full-back, who’d played primarily as a left-back during his four years on Tyneside.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Barclays Premier League
Santon had been at Newcastle for four seasons before returning to Milan
Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Santon, who started his career with I Nerazzurri before heading to England, had only rejoined Inter the previous season, but suffered a knee injury shortly before Christmas, ruling him out of the second half of the campaign.

Inter had accepted Sunderland’s bid, and Santon accepted Sunderland’s proposal – flying to England to seal the deal.

Until the deal was no longer there.

The finer details of the financial agreement - believed to revolve around protection for Sunderland over Santon’s injury – couldn’t be agreed upon, and the deal collapsed.

I suspect the words ‘Inter Milan’, ‘transfer’ and ‘injury’ caused palpitations in the Stadium of Light’s legal department.

While Santon’s move fell through, Allardyce was ploughing on full steam ahead in the transfer market, with West Ham’s Diafra Sakho seemingly desperate to rejoin his former boss in the north east, and Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic also rumoured to be in his sights.

A mere 12 days later, the world collapsed.

Allardyce headed south and so did Sunderland.

Instead of Big Sam, we went into the new season with David Moyes.

Instead of lining up with Santon, Subotic and Sakho, we had Love, Djilobodji and Januzaj donning the red and white stripes.

Good times.


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