It was a busy old day back in 2009 for Sunderland and new manager Steve Bruce - which is maybe no surprise when you take into account he had only been in the job around seven weeks.
After the adventure with Roy Keane had come to a strange conclusion, it became a different type of strange when Ricky Sbragia, first became a reluctant caretaker manager, that would eventually keep us out of the bottom three come the end of the season, and unsurprisingly became reluctant to take the job on long term when the summer came around.
This resulted in a bit of a reset for the club. Roy Keane had dragged the club up from the lower reaches of the Championship to the Premier League, and with the support of the Drumaville group, had invested a decent amount of cash in strengthening the squad. Now it was the turn of Ellis Short, who took complete control of the club in May 2009, just weeks after the completion of the season.
It was in fact only around two weeks before the appointment of Steve Bruce and only five weeks before the new manager began to spend the Texan’s cash. After Greg Halford left to join Wolverhampton Wanderers and Michael Chopra signed for Cardiff City, the first in through the doors at the Academy of Light was Frazier Campbell from Manchester United, who at the age of 22, was considered a potential bargain for around £3.5million.
This was followed up by the signing of Paraguayan international defender Paulo da Silva from Mexican club Toulca just two days later. Pre-season then got properly underway with a comfortable win 4-0 at Darlington and a quick friendly in Portugal, before ending up in Amsterdam to participate in the Amsterdam Tournament.
This was to be played out over two days (with a day rest in the middle), with four teams in total in a group format and each side playing two games - one on each day. As well as the Lads and hosts Ajax, there were also Benfica from Portugal and Atlético Madrid from Spain - with Sunderland taking on Benfica on this day 14 years ago and Atlético Madrid two days later.
If the game wasn’t enough to prepare for, there was also the small matter of selling the club captain. Dean Whitehead had spent five years on Wearside with three being as captain and after coming close to moving to Stoke City the previous summer, he had this time completed a deal to the Potters for an initial fee of around £3m, which could potentially rise to £5m, as the rest of the Lads prepared to take on Benfica.
Not a bad price tag considering it had cost Mick McCarthy only £150,000 to bring him to the Stadium of Light from Oxford United. The 27-year-old midfielder also wouldn’t have had to look far for a familiar face as he arrived for training with his new club as former team-mates Rory Delap, Danny Higginbotham and Liam Lawrence were part of Tony Pulis’ squad there.
As luck would have it, Sunderland were able to move very quickly to replace Whitehead in the middle of the park. Bruce had been trailing the signature of the Albanian captain Lorik Cana from French club Marseille since his arrival, but it was widely expected that the tough tackling midfielder would sign for German Club Hamburg.
However, as the 26-year-old’s deal to Germany fell through, Sunderland had already previously agreed a fee of £5.5m with Marseille, so it was simply a case of agreeing personal terms. Cana made the trip to Amsterdam to talk terms and soon after, the second deal of the day involving Sunderland was announced, with Steve Bruce singing the praises of his new addition:
I’m delighted to have brought Lorik to the club, especially given the number of clubs who had expressed an interest in signing him. He brings with him a tremendous amount of experience both at club level and internationally and is a great addition to our squad. To captain a side of Marseille’s stature says a lot about the player and his character, and I’m sure he’ll go on to be a fantastic signing for Sunderland.
Cana was then in the stand to take in the opening game of the tournament against Benfica and one of the surprises in Bruce’s team selection was in Cana’s position, where he had selected 19-year-old Jordan Henderson. It came as a surprise as a loan spell with Coventry City had been cut short the previous season due to a ligament injury, but Henderson was given an early pre-season run out ahead of the likes of Teemu Tainio who was on the bench.
It almost paid off very early in the game as it was Henderson who almost provided an assist for a Sunderland opener after only seven minutes when Kenwyn Jones could only put the academy graduate’s cross wide of the post. Not long after, Jones fluffed his lines again, this time from a Leadbitter cross that seemed destined to be tucked away, but Jones missed the mark.
Then just after the half hour, former Barcelona striker Javier Saviola was brought down by a combination of Danny Collins and Anton Ferdinand, and Oscar Cardoza gave Benfica the lead from the spot.
The lead was then doubled ten minutes into the second half when Uruguayan full-back Maxi Perreira carried the ball a long way before seeing his shot deflect off Danny Collins (who would join Whitehead at Stoke around five weeks later) and into the net.
In other news reported on this day in 2009 - Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh publicly declared his desire to sign for Sunderland, despite his coach Laurent Blanc suggesting he could find a ‘better’ club.
With one year left on his contract the French striker was being tracked by Arsenal and Juventus, but clearly stated how much he wanted to make the move to Wearside:
I have told Bordeaux I need to go there and I want to play in the Premier League, and Sunderland is a good challenge for me. As far as Arsenal are concerned, it has taken too long, unlike Sunderland.
Friday 24th July, 2009
Sunderland 0-2 Benfica
[Cardozo (pen) 32’, Pereira 55’]
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley (Anderson), Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Edwards (Reid), Leadbitter, Henderson, Malbranque (Waghorn), Richardson (Tainio), Jones (Healy) Substitutes not used: Carson, Stokes
Benfica: Moretto, Pereira (Vitor), Shaffer, Garcia, Luisao, Luiz, Ramires (Amorim), Aimar (Martins), Cardozo, Saviola (Santos), Di Maria (Coentrao) Substitutes not used: Moreira, Gomes