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First Signings

Updated: Jul 28


With the new era at Sunderland starting to gather pace and several members of the previous regime already on their way out the club attention can now turn to who will replace them. Rumours abound over who could be Jack Ross’ first signing and it seems likely the first new faces will be lining up for their photos with scarf raised above their heads and ready to become club legends. With that in mind I’ve taken a look at who previous managers have made their first acquisition. Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s a fairly mixed bag.

Chris Coleman – Jake Clarke-Salter

With absolutely no money to spend Chris Coleman was left trying to improve his squad through the loan or free transfer market. With those restrictions in place Clarke-Salter looked like he should be a solid acquisition. Highly rated at Chelsea with three FA Youth Cup winners medals and a key member of the England under-20 side that won the World Cup sadly he struggled to show that promise in a Sunderland shirt as he made just eleven first team appearance and managed to get sent off twice.

Simon Grayson – Brendan Galloway

If the loan signing of Clarke-Salter didn’t quite work out then it looked like a masterstroke in comparison to the signing of Galloway. An England Under-21 international with Premier League experience at Everton and briefly while on loan at West Brom, Galloway was the first of a number of ultimately disastrous signings made by Grayson. He made just seven appearances all season and following a poor start was overlooked at left-back in favour of Adam Matthews and Clarke-Salter himself despite both playing out of position.

David Moyes – Papy Djilobodji

What can possibly be said about Papy Djilobodji? His £8million signing was symbolic of a transfer policy that was at best misguided and at worst actively self-destructive. He never looked comfortable in any of his 18 appearances in the relegation season from the Premier League and spent last season on loan at French club Dijon. It’s incredibly unlikely that new manager Jack Ross will want to keep him, but it will be equally difficult to find a team to match the more than sizable wages we are giving him meaning he may remain as a reminder of how not to conduct transfer business.

Sam Allardyce – Jan Kirchoff

Allardyce’s sadly too brief stint as manager saw the one genuinely successful transfer window in recent times. His first signing was Kirchoff, a player with immense talent, but a poor record with injuries that explained his bargain basement price. After a dreadful debut appearance at centre-back as a substitute he settled into a deeper midfield position and played a key part in the club’s recovery and outstanding end to the season. One of the best passers of a ball I’ve seen in a Sunderland shirt, injuries meant he barely played the following season and after his release he ended up turning out just four times at Bolton last year. A genuine shame.

Dick Advocaat – Sebastian Coates

Coates was originally signed on loan by fellow countryman Gus Poyet, but became more involved with the first team when Advocaat came in to execute one of the club’s regular great escapes. When the Dutchman was persuaded to stay on as manager Coates was signed permanently, but he made only another 14 appearances for the club after his £2million deal and was sent off to Portugal on loan. After the best part of 18 months at Sporting in which we were presumably paying a reasonable amount of his wages they made his transfer permanent.

Gus Poyet – Marcos Alonso

Alonso was an unqualified success for Sunderland with the only issue around his transfer being that we had to give him back to Fiorentina. Brought in on loan by Poyet he was a crucial part of the team that engineered the most remarkable of our great escapes and reached the final of the League Cup for good measure. He became a fans favourite and seemed to genuinely enjoy his time at the club before returning to Italy and shortly after securing a big money move to Chelsea. His success there won’t have come as a surprise to any Sunderland fan.

Paolo Di Canio – Duncan Watmore

There was plenty to be critical of in Di Canio’s ill-fated tenure as Sunderland manager, but it would be fair to say he had very little to do with the mostly dire transfer business done during his reign. The disastrous attempt to adopt the Udinese model of doing business meant players were signed for him rather than by him. One of the very few successes to come from the experiment was the first player to sign with Di Canio as manager, Duncan Watmore. It would be another couple of years until he made his league debut, but Watmore was a breath of fresh air until a series of nasty injuries stalled his progress. Hopefully there is more to come from him in a Sunderland shirt and he has retained some of the pace that could terrify defenders in League One and above.

Martin O’Neill – Wayne Bridge

Sunderland’s habit of sacking managers mid-season means that a number of the signings on this list have been January loan stop-gap signings. O’Neill’s signing of Bridge is reflective of that and the difficulty that the club had for years in finding a quality left-back. At his best Bridge was an outstanding defender who would comfortably have added to his 36 England caps had he played in an era without Ashley Cole to compete with. Sadly that best was behind him when he signed for Sunderland and his lack of pace was starting to catch up with him. He made just eight appearances and played the majority of the rest of his career a level down in the Championship.

Steve Bruce – Fraizer Campbell

As we all know Steve Bruce loves a striker so it’s no surprise that his first signing for the club was at the top end of the pitch. Campbell was a decent signing for the club and could easily have gone on to greater things if he hadn’t have suffered from such regular injury problems. He nonetheless managed a decent 58 appearances for the club and even managed an England cap while at the club. He moved on to Cardiff and has continued to float around the top two divisions with Crystal Palace and reunited with Bruce at Hull City.

Ricky Sbragia – Tal Ben Haim

Another very brief visitor to Sunderland Ben Haim made just five appearance while on loan from Manchester City. He joined the club having played a limited amount of football in spells at City and Chelsea and couldn’t break into Sbragia’s side following his January loan. Sbragia’s own reign as manager was short lived and he had moved on before getting the chance to rebuild in the summer window.

Roy Keane – Dwight Yorke

Given Sunderland’s fairly dire transfer record for over a decade Roy Keane’s initial transfer window still rates as one of the best over that period. With limited time to work he leant very heavily on players he had worked with before and the first through the door was his former United teammate Yorke. It proved to be an inspired signing as in a deeper midfield position he led the team back to the Premier League making 59 appearances over a three-year spell before retirement.

Mick McCarthy – Jeff Whitley

Jeff Whitley is a player somehow synonymous with McCarthy’s spell as Sunderland manager that varied hugely with two disastrous relegations from the Premier League and a Championship winning return to the top-flight. He made 68 appearances over two seasons in the Championship before moving on to Cardiff following promotion. He dropped down the leagues and was soon playing non-league meaning that his time at Sunderland represented arguably the high point of his career.

Howard Wilkinson – Mart Poom

On a list of positives to be taken from Howard Wilkinson’s time as Sunderland manager the signing of Mart Poom may stand alone. A fine keeper, Poom made 58 appearances after an initial loan move was made permanent and famously even managed to get on the scoresheet to equalise against his former club Derby. Unfortunately, injuries meant he didn’t play as many games for Sunderland as he should have, but he remains fondly remembered for his time at the club.

Peter Reid – John Mullin

Sunderland’s most successful manager of the modern era arguably struggled as more resources became available to him, but he showed an excellent eye for a bargain in the first half of his managerial reign. Signed from Burnley Mullin was a useful squad player as he filled in as a striker and dropping deeper into centre-midfield. He had four years with the club before returning to Burnley making 36 League appearances and famously scoring the winner against Manchester United and the final goal at Roker Park in a win against Liverpool.