Sunderland: The five worst Black Cat signings ever
Following the success of my recent article, Sunderland’s five greatest ever strikers, I’ve decided to have some fun and document arguably the five worst signings made by the club, in recent times anyways.
5. Lilian Laslandes
When the Black Cats announced that they had snapped up the pivotal Frenchman in the summer of 2001 many thought they had found a direct replacement for the retiring Niall Quinn. After all, the-then 30-year-old had bagged 47 goals for Bordeaux in 119 games after scoring the exact amount in 125 appearances for Auxerre. By December of the same year Laslandes had been shipped out on loan to FC Koln, depressed and having lost his scoring touch.
So what happened in those six months between his arrival and unceremonious departure? During Laslandes’ 12 games he found it difficult to adapt to Peter Reid’s direct approach, and when he met with the notoriously hard-headed Scouser he was allegedly told to go home and “not tell us English how to play football.” Laslandes was subsequently dropped from the first team, only to be called up to the starting line-up 30 minutes before the following game after, as Laslandes so eloquently put it, “enjoyed a nice bottle of Bordeaux on the way to the game.”
Laslandes lasted only the first half of said game, and never played for the club again. Reid tried again to find a direct replacement for Quinny, bringing in Norwegian Tore Andre Flo from Rangers for a then record £6.75m but he too found Reidy’s hoof-ball routine difficult to work with and flopped while his manager was fired in October 2002.
4. Rade Prica
Much mystery surrounds this talented Swede, who scored in his first game on Wearside before being dumped by manager Roy Keane and quickly shipped off to Rosenborg BK.
Prior to his arrival, Prica scored more than 90 goals in Denmark, Germany and his native Sweden and was capped 14 times for the national team. In his debut game for the Black Cats Prica helped his team climb out of the bottom three of the Premier League, scoring in a 2-0 win over Birmingham City and having a second harshly ruled out for handball.
What went on after that game is anybody’s guess, but with the temperamental Keane in charge, anything’s possible.
Prica made five more substitute appearances that season and disappeared to Norway where he continued his rich goalscoring form.
3. Carsten Fredgaard
When the 22-year-old Fredgaard arrived on these shores he was lauded by Peter Reid as the next Brian Laudrup. Described as a talented winger and Denmark’s next big thing he was cast into the north-east spotlight and soon debuted in the Premier League.
That one start was to be his last in the league, as Fredgaard never hit the heady heights expected of him, despite several impressive displays in the Worthington Cup, including two breathtaking goals in the 5-0 away win at Walsall.
2. Milton “Tyson” Nunez
Quite how this diminutive Honduran even made it to Sunderland is still a source of hilarity to this day as another one of Reidy’s buys failed to deliver anything except guffaws from those who still remember him.
Nunez was signed for around £3.6m from Greek Superliga side PAOK in 1999 after Reid saw a video of him (or so he thought) paraded by Nunez’ agent. The person Reid actually saw was Nunez’ PAOK strike-partner, Colombian legend Adolfo Valencia who was on fire that season, netting eight goals in 27 games. The irony being Nunez hadn’t actually scored a single goal for PAOK.
After 36,000 fans showed up to see Nunez’ debut in a reserve game against Manchester United, it was soon evident that he wasn’t Premier League quality; standing at just 5ft 5in, “Tyson” looked like a shark out of water and played just one game for the Black Cats before heading back to Honduras in 2001.
1. Nicolas Medina
When Reid (yes, another one of Peter Reid’s gems) announced that Medina was 'the completer midfielder' comparisons to Maradona were soon made on Wearside - after all the Argentinian was only 19 and had cost in excess of £3.6m along with his U21 colleague Julio Arca (who went on to be a cult hero in Sunderland).
The rookie didn’t endear himself well to the Wearsiders when he settled in Newcastle, claiming the nightlife was better, with the fans claiming to forgive him if he paid them back by living up to his hype in the first team. Unfortunately, Medina never made it to the first team, with his solitary appearance in three years coming in an FA Cup tie against Bolton, where he was substituted in the second-half.
Medina never made much of an impression in the Academy squad or reserve team, leading many to speculate that he had either fallen out with Reid, or was seriously ill. Howard Wilkinson shed some light on this situation when he took over in 2002, offering a trivial view on Medina. “The evidence suggests that Nicolas hasn't got it because the previous manager didn't pick him." Marcelo Bielsa obviously didn’t agree with Wilkinson or Reid and called him up to the Argentine national squad in 2004 where Medina won a Gold medal at the Summer Olympics and held his own in a team stacked with the likes of Messi, Saviola, Tevez, etc.
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