Roy Keane’s time at the club will always remain memorable for all Sunderland fans due to the instant impact he provided. The Irishman delivered promotion at the first attempt with a squad he assembled and molded, taking them from languishing in last position in the Premier League to the top dogs in the second tier of English football within a year.
Many of the players in the squad were already there the previous year, but Keane’s main recruitment strategy involved bringing in former Manchester United players or Irish players.
Keane brought in Graham Kavanagh, Anthony Stokes, and David Connolly within his first few months in charge. These signings added to the already significant number of Irish players at the club.
While all of them contributed to the team’s success in that particular season, few were more prominent than striker Connolly, whose goals were pivotal in achieving success. Today, we celebrate his birthday!
Connolly reunited with his former international teammate on the final day of the summer transfer window. He was one of the six new players who joined the club on that frantic day, along with Kavanagh, who also joined from Wigan Athletic.
Initially, Connolly struggled to find the back of the net, taking him over two months to finally score his first goal for the club. That goal came against Colchester United on November 18, when he came on as a substitute and smashed the ball in off the post from about 18 yards out.
As the season progressed, his importance to the team became more and more noticeable, particularly in his link-up play with fellow Irishman Daryl Murphy and the January transfer window signing Stern John, which proved vital to the team’s success.
In early 2007, Connolly’s goal tally increased significantly, with him scoring 8 goals in 10 games by early March.
Such was his form in early 2007 that Keane publicly criticized the Republic of Ireland FA, suggesting that they refused to select Connolly due to “politics or a falling out with them.”
Are you telling me there are better players on better form than Connolly and Miller?
There’s obviously been a fallout.
Dave had a falling-out with Don Givens a few years ago. Don’s involved with the Under-21s and they all talk to each other. Dave has scored maybe eight in the last 10, 11 games. What’s holding back Liam Miller is the fact that he’s from Cork - without a doubt. People think I’m crazy for saying that, but I’m not. They don’t know the FAI as well as I do.
There was probably an element of truth in what the Sunderland manager suggested, with Connolly never representing the national team again.
Connolly ended up as Sunderland’s top scorer and was an integral part of their promotion in the 2006-07 season, scoring 13 goals in the campaign. He scored the final goal of the season for Sunderland against Luton on May 6, 2007, in the match that crowned Sunderland champions of the second tier of English football.
In the 2007-08 season, he rarely featured, playing just five games, three of which were in the league. In the 2008-09 season, the Irishman did not make a single appearance. He was released on May 28, 2009.
After being released by Sunderland in the summer of 2009, he became a free agent before joining Southampton.
Although his time on Wearside was short, his impact was significant during a prosperous period for the club.