One of the many popular subjects when talking about football (and let’s face it, there’s bugger all else you can do with the beautiful game at the minute) is agreeing or disagreeing on which players are the best or worst in their positions at your club. “Best Sunderland left backs, GO!” That sort of thing. A lot of the opinions are naturally tinted by spectacles in varying hues of pink, as your favourite players will naturally creep up towards the top of any list. Favouritism towards a particular player is generated by a lot of things. You saw the player score a spectacularly memorable goal (eg Jermain Defoe), make a spectacularly memorable save (eg Craig Gordon), or simply put in a Mag-destroying performance (eg Kevin Arnott). Oops, or score a hat-trick against the Mags (Billy Hogg, George Holley, Gary Rowell). It might be because he once bought you a pint, signed an autograph when you were a bairn, went out with your sister, or simply went to the same school as you or liked the same music. Lots of reasons. However, when it comes to judging their effectiveness as a player, you have to rely on statistics. Statistics. Aren’t they wonderful? They can be taken so many ways, but in terms of football, the strikers and the goalies are the ones they’re most easily applied to. Clean sheets at one end, goals at the other, it seems so simple, but the effectiveness of the defence in front of a statistically sound goalie is obviously a huge factor. Unless you’re talking about Lee Camp, in which case the Arsenal Invincibles would have struggled to make him look good. Similarly, the service to the strikers is vital, unless you’re talking about Minton Nunez, in which case Jim Baxter would have looked non-productive, but even with today’s in-depth analysis of each and every move, when does a player actually achieve an “assist”? Is it the last pass that lands on the goalscorer’s head or foot, or is it the defence-splitting pass that sets up the last pass? Opinions again. Therefore, and in the interests of simplicity and this piece actually having a point, let’s look at the effectiveness of our strikers. While we got relegated on Defoe’s watch, imagine how bad it would have been without his goals, but where does he fit in the general scheme of things when it comes to value for money for goals? For the purposes of this exercise, I’m only looking at players we paid a fee for, which is a bit harsh on goalscorers like Gary Rowell (103 in 297 competitive matches), Bobby Gurney (228 in 397) and Jimmy Millar (129 in 260), but I can’t do maths (and thus statistics) without numbers. Using the fee we paid, and the Bank of England’s clever calculator that estimates what a pound in past years would be worth today, I made a spreadsheet (‘cos I’m stuck indoors, and ‘cos who doesn’t love a spreadsheet) which assessed 36 randomly selected Sunderland forwards (randomly as in “ones that sprang to mind”) and on which those randomly selected forwards can be ranked in terms of £ per goal. Unfortunately, the Bank of England’s calculator doesn’t (can’t) take into account that in recent years the mere possession of two legs can ensure a daft transfer fee. Football inflation far outstrips “normal” inflation. Otherwise, it’s simple. Which begs the question “why has nobody done this before?” to which the answer undoubtedly is “they probably have but are too shy to tell anybody; or weren’t stuck inside forever.” Don’t worry, I’m not going to discuss each of the 36 in detail, although with all this self-isolation business, you might well have finished every book in your house and be desperate for something different to read. Probably not, but here goes. I did consider adding (or rather subtracting) any fee we later received, but that would have made things a bit complicated, give it another week of this self-isolation, though, and the spreadsheet might have got a bit more complex- but for the time being, it’s just the fee we paid. Here we go, then. Back in 1911 we paid £1,250 (£148,346 in today’s money) for a promising Cockney lad called Charlie Buchan. Despite WW1 getting in the way, he managed to play 411 games and score 222 goals, either side of serving in the Grenadier Guards and Sherwood Foresters, when he was awarded the Military Medal, before moving to Arsenal. The complexities of that deal actually made us a lot of money, but Charlie’s is still top of our value chart at a mere £668 per goal. Second is Charlie’s effective replacement, Dave Halliday, costing the equivalent of £214,384 in 1925, who managed 165 goals in 175 games, including 43 in 42 games in 1928-29, before we sold him to Arsenal in 1929, where he, again, became Buchan’s replacement. £1,299 per goal. Third place brings us to more modern times, and certain deal by Denis Smith that brought Marco Gabbiadini to Roker for the equivalent of £226,726. One many of us can actually remember, Marco smashed his way to 87 goals at £2,606 each, in his 185 games. Many of those goals were with the assistance of Eric Gates, a £547,918 equivalent buy, who pops up in sixth place at £8,236 per goal. Despite scoring shed loads more, SuperKev is next, in seventh, at £8,463, mainly because he’s the highest placed player who cost over £1 million in today’s money. OK, enough of the countdown. We had an idea that these Lads would be up there, value-wise, but what about the other end of the scale? The ones that we moan about. I haven’t bothered with numpties like Andy Gray (one in 22) or Rod Belfitt (just don’t), and countless others we’ve seen wasting oxygen on Wearside, because they’re simply not worth the space. Anyway, coming in in last place on my arbitrary list is a recent memory, Danny Graham, whose £4,618,627 equivalent transfer preceded a single goal, at a very obvious £4,618, 627, in 42 games and that was off his arse at Goodison in a 2-0 win when Defoe (£181,129 per goal) got the other with his thigh. Despite this return, the crowd never really turned on Danny, just as they never really turned on the man Defoe replaced, Jozy Altidore, who’s three goals cost £1,924,428 each. Also, down at the bottom are Jon Stead, whose effort resulted in an ALS T-shirt proclaiming “I Saw Jon Stead Score A Goal”, with two goals at £2,256,635 each, and Tore Andre Flo with three at £2,185,393 apiece. Just above these in the table is Asamoah Gyan, whose goals cost us £1.5 million each before he decided he’d rather score 100 a season in a meaningless sandpit. In the middle places are a few interesting ones. For instance, fans’ favourite Don Goodman came in 18th at £41,421 a goal, while Ally McCoist, who broke all sorts of scoring records at Rangers (where, to be honest, Danny Graham could have managed £5 a goal) was £171,646 a goal. Roly Gregoire is as high as 14th, as we only paid £31,229, so that’s what his single goal cost. Wayne Entwistle’s goals cost £11,737 each compared to Brian Clough’s £20,257, statistics, eh? Don Kichenbrand’s right up there, just below Marco, at £6,726 because we paid next to nowt for him and he scored 28 times in 54 games. So, there you have it, you can do owt with statistics if you’ve got the time, the inclination, and a spreadsheet. For the record, below is my complete list, and I apologise if I’ve not included anyone you particularly like/dislike/remember. If you’ve got nowt better to do, send me their names, and I’ll see how much their goals cost.

£ Per Goal

1: Charlie Buchan. £668

2: Dave Halliday. £1,299

3: Marco Gabbiadini. £2,606

4: Don Kitchenbrand. £6,726

5: Len Shackleton. £7,345

6: Eric Gates. £8,326

7: Kevin Phillips. £8,463

8: Vic Halom. £10,154

9: Alf Common. £10,617

10: Wayne Entwistle. £11,737

11: Neil Martin. £19,084

12: Brian Clough. £20,257

13: Niall Quinn. £27,410

14: Roly Gregoire. £31,229

15: John Byrne. £32,446

16: Peter Davenport. £38,168

17: Phil Gray. £38,796

18: Don Goodman. £41,421

19: Joe Baker. £41,459

20: Tom Ritchie. £63,197

21: Danny Dichio. £73,873

22: Marcus Stewart. £84,054

23: Frank Worthington. £88,897

24: John Hawley. £92,682

25: Charlie Wyke. £93,242

26: Ally McCoist. £171,646

27: Jermain Defoe. £181,129

28: David Connolly. £224,283

29: Darren Bent. £619,430

30: Will Grigg. £762,500

31: David Healy. £1,344,307

32: Asamoah Gyan. £1,526,755

33: Jozy Altidore. £1,924,428

34: Tore Andre Flo. £2,185,393

35: Jon Stead. £2,256,635

36: Danny Graham. £4,618,627