Under his tenure, Roy Keane brought some fairly average players to the club, but one player who was an unequivocal success was winger Steed Malbranque - who celebrates his 44th birthday today.
In the summer window of 2008, Keane ambitiously attempted to bring in four Tottenham Hotspurs players for a combined total of over £20m.
In the end, Younes Kaboul - who ended up joining us a few years later - was the only one out of the quartet that also included Teemu Tainio, Pascal Chimbonda and Malbranque not to sign.
From the opening game of the season against Liverpool, it was clear that Malbranque was the ‘next level’ signing that Niall Quinn so frequently spoke about during his time at the club.
Malbranque’s low centre of gravity, close control and ability to beat a man ensured he would constantly get fans off their seats as he played a significant part in some big moments during his Sunderland career.
In the first few minutes of the Wear-Tyne derby match, Malbranque's shot-cum-cross landed at the feet of Djibril Cissé for the Frenchman to poke it into the back of the net. Malbranque was brilliant in this game, where his dancing feet left Newcastle’s Bassong in knots throughout.
A few weeks later, Steed scored his first goal for the club - what a strike it was!
From the edge of the box, he took one touch before placing it perfectly in the top corner of the Hull net. His unassuming and shy celebration was a measure of the man who seemed to shy away from media duties and interviews.
Although he only scored three goals for the club, Malbranque played a pivotal role, providing many assists for goals throughout his time for the club. Just as Jack Clarke likes to cut in, Steed would do this for years, cutting in and placing a perfect cross onto the head of a striker in the box.
In many ways, his time at the club was understated. Malbranque was featured more than 100 times for the club and was an ever-present for managers Keane, Sbragia and Bruce.
It was during Steve Bruce’s tenure in August 2011 when his time at the club ended. With offers to return to France, it appeared something that suited all parties due to his high wages and his family's return to France.
Upon his departure, Bruce explained the reasons for his exit before lavishing praise on his unique ability.
The defining moment was that he let his wife and children go back to France.
The writing was on the wall, the time was right for him and us to move on.
He had a year left on his contract, he was the highest earner at the club, and we were left in that situation to offer him a new contract.
I wish him the best of luck, and he’s been a terrific little player for the club.
And so today, we celebrate and reflect on the career of a player who contributed significantly upon our return to the Premier League under Roy Keane.
His silky skills, an abundance of assists and the famous theory that he never finished a game due to enjoying the odd cigarette are still ingrained in my memories of him.
Happy birthday, Steed!