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Another week, another Cult Hero who has graced the red and white stripes and also the colours of our upcoming opponents, Wigan for your viewing pleasure. Wigan are just one of those sides, no disrespect intended, that I find it almost impossible to get "excited" to play and that feeling has increased tenfold following last week’s dreary performance. Player’s that have graced both sides are about as rare as Steve Bruce accepting some responsibility but I have managed to pick out one fella who played a major role in Roy Keane’s promotion winning side of 2006/07.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s the London born Irishman, David Connolly!
Connolly’s footballing career started in 1994 with Watford where he wasted no time in making a name for himself as a talented striker following a notable record of 15 goals in 34 games for the London side. In fact Connolly and Sunderland’s paths could have crossed a decade early than they actually did as he was firmly on Peter Reid’s radar at one time, however the price tag was deemed to be too high. Undeterred Reid would not leave Vicarage Road empty handed and came away with another striker instead, you may remember him, Kevin something or other?
Instead of the North East Connolly made the journey to Holland in 1997 to join Feyenoord, where he was made the highest paid player in Dutch football at the time. His time in the Netherlands however did not work
out quite as planned. Despite scoring 7 goals in 25 appearances in his first season he spent his last two terms with the club away on loan, first with Wolves back in the UK and then with Excelsior Rotterdam.
David’s footballing journey would then see him figure in a successful stint with Wimbledon where he scored 42 goals in 63 appearances before signing for West Ham, Leicester and Saturday’s opposition, Wigan Athletic.
Connolly joined newly promoted Wigan in 2005 as a £2m transfer, a fee which rose to £3m following Atheltic’s Premier League survival that year. Unfortunately for the striker he was besieged by injuries during
his spell with the rugby lovers and was limited to only 7 starting appearances. However he did manage to notch a goal against Newcastle from the penalty spot which saw the Lactics advance to the Carling Cup
quarter-finals in November of 2005.
The striker joined Sunderland the following summer on the 31st August 2006 - Transfer deadline day. A day no Sunderland fan will forget as new gaffer Roy Keane was seemingly given full control of Niall’s cheque book and brought in six players; Graham Kavanagh, Dwight Yorke, Stan Varga, Liam Miller, Ross Wallace and Connolly himself for around £1.4m. Now Steve, that was mass hysteria, not our lukewarm reception to your questionable record…
Connolly’s former boss Paul Jewell was disappointed to lose his forward:
"Conners is a good pro and a natural finisher but unfortunately for him he never really got to show off his undoubted ability while he was here.
He suffered badly from a succession of niggling injuries last season which held him back and although he has been in excellent form pre-season, he feels he would rather increase his chances of regular first team at Sunderland and I respect that. He goes with my best wishes"
"Niggling injuries" was to become a phrase that became associated with the Irish International on an increasingly regular basis, a bit like "crap" and Ahmed Elmohammady these days. Connolly was a bright and lively forward with a real footballing brain, able to link up play with ease. It was these attributes combined with a side that was brimming with confidence following Keane’s arrival that saw the striker rack up 13 goals from 36 appearances and finish as the club’s top scorer, establishing himself as an integral part of the first team. It was also the first season in a number of the years that the intelligent forward managed to stave off injury.
David was also the subject of a rather brilliant chant based on KC and the Sushine Band’s 1983 classic "Give It Up"
Nanananananaa David Connolly (via krsrd)
The following season’s Premier League campaign would see fortune not look so favourably on the likable striker as he was struck down with, yes you guessed it, a niggling groin injury that plagued him for the
entire campaign and beyond as he spent his days on the treatment table rather than on the training ground.
Connolly’s Sunderland career came to an end during the major reshuffle which followed Ellis Short’s take over of the club and David found himself one of seven players to be released by SAFC at the end of the 2008/09 season as the club barely survived relegation. Connolly had not featured for first team for well over a year and seemingly the club had had enough of him hanging around the physio’s room.
Connolly spent the summer on trial with a number of different clubs before Alan Pardew threw him a lifeline with League One side Southampton where his career has enjoyed patches of revival with yet more injury woe.
Its always good to see Connolly’s name crop up on the scoresheet on Soccer Saturday, he was a key part of an exciting side which helped to erase the memories of some tough years that we had had to endure prior
to the Keane era. Unfortunately injuries wrecked his chance of Premier League football whilst on Wearside but he will always be fondly remembered for his contribution to that rollercoaster of a season.
What moments of David's SAFC stand out most for you? Let us know in the comments below. Don't forget that Thursday is also the Roker Report Podcast Day! Grab your copy before it goes bad like a Gordon Strachan yoghurt.