Welcome back to Last Word on Football’s Team of the Decade series. Previously we have looked at those who have been performed well. This edition looks at those players who fans wished had never signed. Welcome to the Worst Team of the Decade series.
It’s fair to say that Sunderland had a disappointing last decade. Fans enjoyed three trips to Wembley, despite the results, but that is as good as it got. There were great escapes which provided false dawns but the bad out-weighed the good by some distance.
The Black Cats started the decade in the Premier League. International class managers in Martin O’Neill, Sam Allardyce and Dick Advocaat were brought in, but it always went wrong. Sadly for Sunderland fans, their club is now in League One, and it is proving difficult to rise back to where this famous club belongs.
Worst Team of the Decade: Sunderland
Manager of Sunderland’s Worst Team of the Decade: David Moyes
This honour could have gone to several former managers. However, David Moyes pips them all to the title of manager of Sunderland’s worst team of the decade. After succeeding Sam Allardyce, many believed the team only needed a few quality additions to have a successful season. A successful season for Sunderland anyway. Moyes was a former Everton and Manchester United manager and seemed a good fit.
Moyes proceeded to waste millions on players worse than what was at the club, and then declared that the club was in a relegation battle after just three games. The Scot surrounded himself with ex Everton and United players well past their best or not good enough. The club was relegated without a fight. Several years after his departure, the club are still trying to recover.
Goalkeeper – Jason Steele
After allowing Vito Mannone to leave following relegation to free up wages and transfer funds, new ‘keepers were required. Following those that were brought in, it would have been far better to have kept Mannone. One of those who came to the club was Jason Steele. The former Middlesbrough goalkeeper signed from Blackburn Rovers for a reported £500,000.
Rovers must have been delighted to have received so much for a ‘keeper devoid of confidence, and more importantly goalkeeping ability. He conceded five on his debut in a home friendly against Celtic. It got no better. Mistake after mistake cost his side valuable points as they struggled to adjust to life in the Championship. When he was finally taken out of the team the damage had been done, and Sunderland were heading towards League One.
Right-Back – Donald Love
Signed by David Moyes along with Paddy McNair, Love looked out of his depth in all three of the divisions he featured in for the club. As a former Manchester United player, fans thought he could be a good squad player. However, Love would go down as a player who was seemingly signed due to David Moyes knowing him from a previous managerial stint. He is now at Shrewsbury.
Centre-Back – Santiago Vergini
He will be remembered for a stunning goal at Southampton. Sadly, it was in his own goal. If it was at the other end, Vergini’s volley would have been a goal of the season contender. Vergini struggled with almost every aspect of the English game and finally returned to his native Argentina with the tag of flop attached to him.
Centre-Back – Papy Djilobodji
An £8 million signing from Chelsea by David Moyes, Djilobodji signed having not played a single minute of Premier League football. It showed. After relegation, the defender was sent out on loan for the season. On his return, he advised the club that he wished to leave permanently.
He was allowed to take unpaid leave from the club in order to secure himself a deal elsewhere. He was asked to maintain his fitness as part of the deal. Due to return to Sunderland after his unpaid leave was completed, he failed to show up. When he did he failed a fitness test and missed more training. In September 2018, Djilobodji was sacked for breach of contract and failing a fitness test.
Left-Back – Brendan Galloway
A loan signing from Everton, everyone had high hopes for the versatile defender. Having played for Everton and England at almost all levels up to the U21s, Galloway appeared a good addition.
After some poor displays in pre-season, Galloway continued his poor performances as the season got underway. Mistakes were never far away from the youngster, he lost his place completely before Christmas. A bad move from club and player perspectives.
Midfield – Didier Ndong
Another David Moyes signing and another waste of millions of pounds. He signed in the summer of 2016 for a record fee of £13.6 million. Ndong featured prominently as the team was relegated from the Premier League. He would play the first half of the next season in the Championship, but he, along with the club struggled badly. His last appearance came when he was sent off during a defeat to Cardiff City.
Shortly after his red card, Ndong moved to Watford on loan. He failed to make a single appearance. The midfielder was due to report back to Sunderland for pre-season training but like Papy Djilobodji, he then failed to make an appearance and for the months that would follow. As no reason was given for his absence, Sunderland terminated his contract.
Midfield – Jack Rodwell
Arguably the worst signing in Sunderland’s long history. A Sunderland worst team of the decade would be incomplete without this player. Former Everton and Manchester City midfielder Rodwell signed for the Black Cats for £10 million in the summer of 2014. At the time, he appeared to be a good signing. However, Rodwell never looked anything resembling a good footballer. It took until February 2017 for Sunderland to win a league game in which Rodwell started.
As Sunderland fell out of the Championship, Rodwell was the only player not to have a wage reduction clause in his contract. This meant he was still being paid £70,000 per week. He would play just twice in the Championship. Rodwell once said in an interview that he would do “anything to play football”; however, when Sunderland offered to tear up his contract and give him a lump sum payment in order for the player to move for free, Rodwell refused.
The former England defender was content to see out the remaining time of his £70,000 per week contract while not kicking a ball. After relegation to League One, Sunderland cancelled Rodwell’s contract. A poor player with an even worse attitude.
Midfield – Darron Gibson
Another David Moyes signing from a former club. Gibson signed during the relegation season from the Premier League. He then caused a huge rift in the dressing room after criticising his team-mates on a night out.
He would play 15 times in the Championship before being arrested for drink driving and colliding with several parked cars. The second time in his career he had been arrested for drink driving and colliding with others. Gibson was suspended by the club and shortly after he left by mutual consent.
Forward – James Vaughan
At £500,000 and on the back of a 24 goal season at Bury, the former Everton striker appeared to be a good signing. Vaughan missed two penalties in pre-season and never recovered. His performances were poor and his limitations there for all to see as he scored just two goals in 23 games. Supporters were not impressed with his efforts as the team struggled. When he scored his second and last goal for the club, his gestures to the Sunderland fans did not go down well. After just half a season, Vaughan was sold.
Forward – Danny Graham
Martin O’Neill spent £5 million in January 2013 on Graham in an attempt to cure his shot-shy team. To say the move was unsuccessful would be an understatement. Signed to score goals, Graham failed to hit the net in his first half-season with the club. New manager Gus Poyet sent the forward out on loan in a bid for him to rediscover his form and shooting boots.
Graham would play 42 times for Sunderland but his only goal came at Everton when a shot deflected off him and into the goal. He was released in June 2016 after spending time on loan at Blackburn.
Forward – Jozy Altidore
The American had all the physical attributes to do well in the English game. However, he failed to do what he was employed to do, score goals. A disastrous spell at Hull City was followed by a more successful time in Holland. His move to Sunderland for £6.5 million was his chance to show he could score in the Premier League. He failed.
During 18 months on Wearside, Altidore scored just one Premier League goal. Add this to his tally at Hull, it brings him up to two goals in 70 EPL appearances. A Daily Mail article of the 100 worst Premier League strikers listed him at number one. Amazingly, Sunderland persuaded Toronto to swap England striker Jermain Defoe for their goal-shy forward.
Worst Team of the Decade Substitutes:
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