Today marks the birthday of one of the first signings made by Roy Keane after we secured promotion back to the Premier League: Dickson Etuhu. The Nigerian midfielder joined the club for £1.5 million in the summer of 2007.
Playing for Norwich City at the time, Keane clearly was impressed by his performances during the two meetings between the sides in the Championship season of 2006/2007.
Etuhu was a tall and robust enforcer, and Keane felt it was an area in which we needed strength, given our midfield options of Dean Whitehead, Grant Leadbitter, Dwight Yorke and Liam Miller didn’t offer the level of physicality that was needed in the Premier League.
On signing for the club, Keane stressed the importance of bringing in somebody who had those attributes.
“I’m very pleased that Dickson has signed. He’ll add competition to our squad and give us a real physical presence.”
“He’s a big, strong player who can also get a goal. We are definitely heading in the right direction as far as getting the players we want to the football club.”
“The signing of Dickson creates competition and a club like Sunderland needs that. We all talk about the big four having competition for places, I feel every club should have it and that’s what I’m trying to do here.”
Etuhu started the season quite well, playing a key role in our opening day win against Tottenham where he almost bagged himself a debut goal.
During his early appearances, he certainly displayed the physical presence highlighted by Keane, and this was no more obvious than in the Tyne/Wear derby, where he justifiably got up close and personal with Joey Barton after the Newcastle midfielder hit him with a shocking challenge that could’ve been a career-ender.
In early February 2008, Etuhu bagged his only goal for the club in a big win against Wigan Athletic at the Stadium of Light. In the context of the season, the goal was crucial, not least because of the poor away form we were experiencing at the time.
Unfortunately for the Nigerian midfielder, he endured constant issues with knee injuries, which limited his involvement to just twenty games. His final game came against Portsmouth in February, and he didn’t play for us again.
In what seemed like a surprise move, Etuhu was allowed to leave for Fulham at the end of 2007/2008, where he played for four years and made almost one hundred appearances.
He went on to play for Blackburn and then in Sweden, where he was eventually found guilty of match fixing and banned for five years.