How big a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment was England’s departure from Euro 2016 for Sunderland?
We’ll never know, of course, but the momentum that Sam Allardyce had built up in the second half of the 2015/16 season was significant, and there was real optimism again among the supporter base. We were finally on the right track.
Or were we?
There were mutterings that Big Sam wasn’t happy with a few things at Sunderland, particularly surrounding transfers, and on this day just seven years ago, the club were dealt a double whammy in their chase for midfield reinforcements.
Firstly, a reportedly long-standing target (although I’m not sure much long-term thinking happened during Ellis Short’s reign) turned down a move to the Stadium of Light, despite positive talks taking place. French midfielder Clement Chantome, who was 28 at the time, opted to stay in France with Rennes, after leaving Bordeaux.
Chantome, a talented box-to-box midfielder, started his career at PSG and played almost 200 times for the club over nine years without ever being a true regular.
He had joined Bordeaux in January 2015, and after his 18 month contract expired, he was available for a move. Everton were also in the hunt, but Chantome opted to stay in France.
In hindsight, it doesn’t appear to have been a bad one to miss out on – he had a torrid time at Rennes, picking up injuries on his debut and then shortly after his comeback in January, and made only eight appearances in total for the club.
At the time, Chantome’s decision not to join the club compounded the decision to let Yann M’Vila’s purchase clause to expire. The French midfielder had enjoyed an excellent loan spell at the club and seemingly wanted to join full time from Rubin Kazan. However, the club didn’t want to pay the pre-agreed fee in his contract to make the move permanent, as M’Vila’s contract with Rubin Kazan had only a year to run.
The club were still extremely confident of reaching an agreement with their Russian counterparts, however, in their infinite wisdom, had opted to let the clause expire, banking that M’Vila’s desire to join permanently would enable them to negotiate better terms. Both M’Vila and Allardyce had publically stated they wanted the move to happen, and it seemed it was just a matter of negotiating with the club.
Of course, we all know what happened there – one £16m Didier N’Dong, one David Moyes one Steven Pienaar, and one Instagram message later, our midfield was the weakest it had been for over a decade.
And then, despite apparently having an agreement with M’Vila to return in January, we decided not to pursue it.
Sliding Doors moments. Or downright incompetence?
On this day (2011)
As a little bonus, here’s something else I found while digging through the archives today. It wasn’t Sunderland-related then – but it certainly is now, as one of Tony Mowbray’s Middlesbrough players was discussing Mogga’s approach to football.
Kevin Thomson had played under Mowbray at Hibs before reuniting at the Riverside, and he said:
There were times when we went through to Glasgow and they couldn’t get the ball off us.
We had a belief that we could beat anybody but our naivety and immaturity cost us a lot of games. I remember a game at Aberdeen where we played almost the entire game in their half and made something incredible like 1,000 passes, but ended up drawing.
That was kind of the story of those two years. In some ways we were a bit like Arsenal in that we could pass teams to death and end up not getting the results.
You could see in our opponents’ faces that they hated playing against us. The group we had was pretty breathtaking but we were probably missing a top keeper and that wee bit of grit that all of us have added since moving on to bigger clubs. I’m pretty sure we’d have that dirty side if we were all reunited now. In fact I don’t think we’d be far off winning the SPL.
Mogga was a breath of fresh air. He was fortunate that he inherited a group of young players who wanted to play the same way he did – it was a proper match made in heaven.
It’s interesting that Mowbray’s style hasn’t changed too much in the 12 years since these quotes, and hopefully, with a year’s experience, the core of the squad will have that maturity that will help us find ways to win more games at home this season!