THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY



Supporting Sunderland is hard enough at the best of times, it becomes even tougher when you see players who didn’t play enough or perform well at Sunderland doing well at another team. This article will take a look at some of the former Sunderland players who have went to have successful careers after leaving the Stadium of Light.


Conor Hourihane

Hourihane joined Sunderland’s academy as 16 year old in 2007. Then manager Roy Keane played a huge part in bringing Hourihane to the club. After interest from Liverpool and Celtic, the County Cork born midfielder was convinced by a visit from childhood hero Keane. Hourihane was part of the under-18 side that reached the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup final in 2008 however they were beaten by Man City. The SAFC team that day included Jordan Henderson, Jack Colback and Martyn Waghorn. Hourihane failed to make a first team appearance for Sunderland and in 2010 rejected a new contract. He then linked up with Roy Keane once more in 2010, signing for Ipswich. After leaving Ipswich, Hourihane went onto play for Plymouth and Barnsley where he won two trophies in a month at Wembley, winning the Football League Trophy in April 2016 and then the League One Play Off final in May 2016. Hourihane’s performances at Barnsley earned him a move to Aston Villa in January 2017. He won promotion at Wembley once more, winning the Championship Play Off Final in May 2019. Having never got the chance at Sunderland, he scored his first Premier League goal in October 2019 meaning he has scored in all four divisions of English football. Horuihane finished the campaign with 27 appearances and was key in helping Villa to stay up. Hourihane’s creativity in midfield is something we have been missing for years so watching him succeed at Villa is quite painful. After falling out of favour in the 2020/21 season Hourihane joined Swansea on loan in January 2021.


John Egan

Egan joined the academy at Sunderland in 2009. In 2012 he was loaned to Crystal Palace and then Sheffield United, making a single appearance for each side. Martin O’Neill called Egan up to the first team for the pre-season tour to South Korea in July 2012 and handed him a first team squad number after he impressed. In November 2012 Egan was loaned to Bradford but broke his leg two weeks later and was ruled out for a year. In 2014 Egan was released by Sunderland without making a first team appearance and signed for Gillingham. Unable to get the chance to show his talent at Sunderland, Egan made an instant impact at Gillingham winning the club’s player of the year award in his debut season. After a successful second season he was named in the League One PFA Team of the Year. Egan’s performances at Gillingham earned him a move to Brentford in 2016. In the 2017/18 he became club captain and kept 15 clean sheets as Brentford finished 9th in the Championship. Egan re-joined Sheffield United in 2018 for a fee of around £4 million and won promotion to the Premier League with the Blades. It was a bitter pill to swallow watching Egan impress on his debut season knowing he never played a game for the lads and was let go on a free. Egan helped Sheffield United avoid relegation in their first season however Sheffield United currently sit bottom of the Prem having only one once this season.


Jason Denayer

Denayer joined Sunderland on a season-long loan from Manchester City in August 2016. The Belgian came to the Stadium of Light with a wealth of experience having had previous loan spells at Galatasaray and Celtic. He had won the PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year in 2015 so his quality wasn’t lacking, that was until he came to Sunderland. David Moyes brought him to the club and in another one of his masterstrokes in the 2016/17 season decided to play him in midfield rather than defence. Denayer made 27 appearances but failed to perform consistently and look out of his depth, which is understandable considering he was not playing in his natural position. We were relegated at the end of an extremely poor season and Denayer retuned to City. In 2018 he left Manchester City and joined French side Lyon, a kick in the teeth is that he is now one of Europe’s top centre halves. He was part of the Lyon side that beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Champions League Quarter Final last season before losing to eventual winners Bayern Munich in the Semi’s.


Ovie Ejaria

Ejaria moved to Sunderland on loan on deadline day in January 2018. He was signed by then manager Chris Coleman in an attempt to keep us in the Championship. Ejaria made 11 appearances, scoring once but we were relegated to League One. Ejaria looked out of his depth at Sunderland but that was most likely due to his inexperience. After an unsuccessful spell at Sunderland Ejaria signed on loan for Rangers for the first half of the 2018/19 season, in the second half of the season he signed on loan for Reading, Ejaria re-joined Reading on loan in August 2019 with a view to a permanent deal at the end of the season. In the 2019/20 season Ejaria was one of the brightest young stars in the Championship with his dribbling and passing ability earning him significant praise. His performances earned him a permanent move to the Madejski for £3.9 million. Impressing again this season Ejaria and his Reading team mates sit 5th in the Championship.