After the recent exits of Danny Graham and Will Grigg a fan on Twitter asked us to produce an article about former Sunderland players who ‘stole a living’ during their time on Wearside. To make this illustrious starting XI the players have to meet some of the following criteria: bad attitude, hefty transfer fee, high wages, little to no ability and lack of appearances.
GK: LEE CAMP
Whilst we didn’t pay a fee for Lee Camp and probably only payed half his wages the fact he is able to call himself a goalkeeper and receive money for it is stealing a living. Camp signed on loan from Cardiff in January 2018 to fix our goalkeeping crisis. The only thing Camp did in the 12 games he played for Sunderland was to add to that crisis. Camp lacked the basic skills of being able to catch a ball. If you dragged a fan out the South Stand at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon and put him in goal, I’d have had more confidence in our chances of victory. It’s no surprise he did not sign permanently. Whilst Camp didn’t have a bad attitude the fact he has zero ability is why he makes this starting XI.
RB: GREG HALFORD
“I had Greg at Sunderland and he was a disaster for me. Very, very, poor.” Roy Keane. Halford signed in June 2007 for a fee reported as £2.5 million rising to £3.5 million, which in 2007 was quite a lot of money. Halford made his debut against Birmingham in a 2-2 draw. However, a few days later he looked out of his depth in a 3-0 defeat at Wigan. In his fourth game Halford was sent off in a 3–0 League Cup defeat to Luton Town. He only made three more appearances and was again sent off in a home draw against Fulham. Making only nine appearances for the club Halford was loaned out six months after signing. Halford’s time at Sunderland was a disaster, his ability at the back was non-existent and the fact he is 6ft 4 made it very difficult to hide that.
CB: PAPY DJILOBODJI
Dijolobodji cost Sunderland £8 million when he signed from Chelsea in August 2016. During his first season it became obvious Djolobodji didn’t have the ability to play in the Prem, nor did he look bothered to make an effort. Djolobodji was sent off twice and made 23 appearances as were relegated from the PL in April 2017. He spent the 2017/18 season on loan at Dijon as Sunderland were relegated from the Championship to L1. Djolobodji stated his desire to leave the club rather than play in League One. He reached an agreement with the club that he would remain on unpaid leave during July 2018 in order to find a move away, however he would have to maintain his fitness. After failing to return to training in August, Djolobodji finally arrived back at the club in September insisting he had done nothing wrong. After failing a fitness test, he was sacked for breach of contract and left the club for nothing. Dijolobodji fits all the criteria for this starting XI. I don’t know he ended up at Chelsea before he signed for Sunderland as couldn’t defend to save his life. His hefty transfer fee, bad attitude, and presumably high wages makes him a perfect candidate for the stealing a living XI.
CB: PAUL MCSHANE
The ginger Sergio Ramos. McShane joined Sunderland for £1.5 million in July 2007 and the fact we paid over £1 for him is reason enough for him to be in this team. I was about eight when Paul McShane was at Sunderland but even then I was able to see how bad he was. In the short time he played for us he somehow demonstrated every bad characteristic of a central defender and that hair cut was just as bad. Thankfully he only played 24 times for us but unbelievably McShane is still playing, he lined up against Sunderland for Rochdale in October 2020.
LB: BRENDAN GALLOWAY
Again we didn’t pay anything for Galloway however his ability was so lacking that he has to make this team. He was signed on loan from Everton in the summer of 2017 and had Premier League experience, having made 14 starts in the 2015/16 season, it suggested Galloway could be a key figure in our attempt to return to the Prem. However, Galloway was a huge disappointment. He started the opening game of the season against Derby and was at fault for the oppositions goal. After a series of mistakes in the seasons opening games, he lost his place to Bryan Oviedo, who had returned from injury. Galloway only made seven appearances during the 2017/18 season and didn’t feature in a first team game after December 2017. His loan spell was that much of a failure manager Chris Coleman admitted that in the January transfer window the club had tried to prompt Everton into loaning him to another club. It wasn’t actually funny how bad Galloway was for Sunderland and the fact he earned money for his performances at Sunderland is stealing a living.
RM: NICOLAS MEDINA
Medina might have actually been a central midfielder, but I couldn’t leave him out of the team and we have no proof that he couldn’t play on the right because he failed to make a league appearance for us. In 2001, Medina signed for £3.5 million however he spent most of his time at Sunderland in the reserve team, showing average ability and looking like a 12 year old. Fans speculated why an expensive signing was not played. There were theories that he was suffering a serious illness, and that he had fallen out with Reid, as many had, but neither was confirmed. Medina eventually left playing only once for the first team; in an FA Cup tie against Bolton. He remains the most expensive Sunderland player to never play a first-team league game. Given that fact it is understandable why has made this XI.
CM: DIDIER N’DONG
Didier N’Dong, still holds the record for our record signing, yikes. That pill doesn’t get any easier to swallow when you realise he was signed by David Moyes instead of Yann M’Vila. N’Dong was a regular during his first season at Sunderland and scored his only goal for the lads in a 4-0 victory at Crystal Palace. After relegation N’Dong was still a regular during our Championship campaign. He was sent off against Cardiff in January 2018, in what turned out to be his final appearance for SAFC. N’Dong signed on loan for Watford on January 31. In the four months he spent at Watford he did not play a single minute and was an unused substitute three times. When Sunderland were relegated to the third tier, N’Dong stated his desire to leave the club. During the summer of 2018 he was linked with a number of clubs, including Torino, who agreed a fee of £6.6 million but N’Dong's personal demands proved to be a stumbling block. N’Dong returned to SAFC on September 24 and was sacked for breach of contract. Like Dijolobodji, N’Dong had an extremely bad attitude and average ability. He would have more than likely been on a hefty wage and in return N’Dong helped us to back-to-back relegations.
CM: JACK RODWELL
Jack Rodwell is the very definition of a player stealing a living. Signed for £10 million in 2014, Rodwell came to the club after struggling to find game time at Man City. When he burst onto the scene, Rodwell was tipped to be England’s next best thing and for a while at Everton it looked like he could be. Even when he signed for Sunderland, he was only 23 and still had the world at his feet. What ensued after that is four years of nothing. It is criminal when you realise he earned £12.7 million during his time at Sunderland when he contributed to nothing but back to back relegations. Rodwell was the only member of the first team squad whose contract didn’t include a salary reduction after relegation from the Prem. Rodwell made a total of 76 appearances for Sunderland. When combining fee and salary Rodwell cost £299,000 per appearance. Rodwell finally agreed to rip up his contract in 2018 and left the club. He appeared on the Netflix documentary Sunderland till I Die where he was rightly portrayed as a villain. His smug attitude and lack of desire to play for the club reflected a player who was far too big for his boots.
LM: RICKY ALVAREZ
I was undecided on whether to include Alvarez as he didn’t have a bad attitude and looked like he had ability. However, the fact Sunderland have been ordered to pay Alvarez £4.77 million for loss of earnings after he only played 11 times is the epitome of stealing a living. Alvarez signed from Inter Milan on transfer deadline day in August 2014. He signed on a season long loan deal, with a clause in his contract that meant he would sign permanently for €10.5 million the next summer, if Sunderland stayed up. The deal also included a clause that stated SAFC would not have to sign the player permanently if a chronic knee injury prevented him from playing. After making his debut against Spurs, Alvarez went onto make 11 appearances for the lads, scoring once in an FA Cup tie at Fulham. A knee injury cut his playing time short at Sunderland. After staying up the Black Cats tried to pull out of the deal to sign Alvarez on a permanent basis, arguing that the player's knee injury scuppered the terms of the deal.Years’ worth of legal battles continued after his loan spell, without the player actually playing for Sunderland. Alvarez signed for Sampdoria in January 2016. In 2017 the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Sunderland were liable to pay Inter the transfer fee. Sunderland’s argument that they weren’t aware of Alvarez having surgery to his right knee in 2012 was dismissed by the CAS, as it was revealed Sunderland’s club doctor had discovered it during his medical but did not follow it up at the time. In the end Sunderland have paid almost £20 million for a player that played 11 games.
ST: DANNY GRAHAM
The recently retired Danny Graham has to make the team. In two spells at the club Graham scored twice, one went in off his arse and the other was against Aston Villa’s under 10’s. If Graham made eight more league appearances for the club Mart Poom would have a better goals to game ratio. And for anyone that doesn’t know who Mart Poom is, he’s a goalkeeper. If you are a striker and you can’t score goals but are still being paid then you are stealing a living. His £5 million transfer fee in January 2013 was a total waste and I can’t believe Phil Parkinson let Graham return in September 2020.
ST: TORE ANDRE FLO
Tore Andre Flo was signed by Peter Reid on deadline day in the summer of 2002 as a replacement for the recently retired Niall Quinn. A fee in the region of £6.75 million was paid to Rangers, which at the time was Sunderland’s record transfer fee. The lateness of the deal and the fact Flo had struggled to score for Rangers led to many believing it was a last minute panic buy. Despite this Flo scored on his debut against Manchester United and like most signings gave fans false hope that he might succeed. Filling the shoes of Quinn was always going to be a tough ask but Flo didn’t even come close. He struggled to fill the role of a target man and didn’t form a partnership with Kevin Phillips. In 33 games for Sunderland he scored six goals and was part of the side that was relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2002/03 season. Flo’s Sunderland career ended like most of our expensive signings, leaving the club on a free. When you combine the money spent on Flo, his poor goal return and his inevitably high wages you get the reason for why he makes the XI. Many will say we never played to his strengths, that we expected him to be another Niall Quinn but really he just wasn’t good enough.