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Today we run down ten Sunderland men, past and present, who garnered a bad reputation one way or another with the fans but were just misunderstood.
10. Andy "Mary" Melville
Melville built a solid reputation on Wearside as a competent and reliable defender, a powerhouse in the air whilst equally as adept with the ball at his feet. However as a Sunderland fan what first springs to mind when they hear the name Andy Melville and you are guaranteed to hear his "unfortunate" nickname in retort. Dubbed Mary by Kevin Ball based upon the skipper's rather stereotypical view of Welshmen and the nursery rhyme "Mary had a little lamb", Andy's fate was sealed. However rather than remain an in-house joke at the training ground Bally saw fit to blurt out Melville's moniker in an interview with A Love Supreme... Sorry Mary, I mean Andy.
9. Barry "Flying Pig" Siddall
Another rather cruel nickname gets the nod in the number nine slot of our little list in the, portly, shape of Barry Siddall. The journeyman keeper starred for the Black Cats in the late 1970's making over 150 appearances however is often best remembered for his nickname - The Flying Pig. Barry would probably have a good case for harassment in the modern HR ruled world. The seventies was a different era I guess.
8. Carsten Fredgaard
Fredgaard joined Sunderland with a glowing reputation from Lyngby in 1999. Described as lightning fast, bags of skill and with a keen eye for goal. Heck he was also lauded to be the natural successor to Denmark's Laudrup. Surely a bargain at £1.7m, what could go wrong? Well despite an impressive performance in the league cup, most notably a 0-5 win over Walsall, Carsten simply faded into obscurity and his reputation wasn't helped as he picked up the moniker Chocolate Fireguard because he had become about as much use as the mythical household object.
Etuhu joined Roy Keane's Sunderland in the summer of 2007 following promotion to the Premier League. There were no doubting Dickson's ability as an athlete, the bloke was built like the proverbial brick... well you know the rest. However whilst I'm certainly not saying he was the next Iniesta, for my money atleast, the lad could play a little as well. His engine, ability to break up the play and his commitment to the cause were second to none. However Dickson was never really taken to by the fans and his Sunderland career was relatively short-lived, curtailed somewhat by injury, however he would move on to Fulham where he would become a first team regular and enjoy European football with the London outfit - our loss I guess.
6. Lee Clark
Just his name alone is enough to send some Sunderland fans into a fit of rage and with good reason of course following that incident. However before Clark's indiscretion it cannot be argued that he was a bloody good footballer for the side and quite an influential one at that, however in one moment of madness all of Clark's hard work to win over the fans was obliterated and his reputation on Wearside dead and buried - a real shame.
5. Phil Babb
Who can forget when the club announced a press conference to announce the signing of a "mystery international player" and it turned out to be Phil Babb? From that moment on Babb was never really afforded much of a chance by the Sunderland fans, for obvious reasons following the way the club handled his arrival, but was he really as bad as was made out at the time? Sure he wasn't great but certainly not the worst footballer ever to wear the red and white that some make out.
4. Lilian Laslandes
As Karl Jones eloquently put it "A square-peg in a Niall Quinn shaped hole". In the wake of Quinn's retirement Sunderland began an impossible quest to replace our number nine with a like-for-like alternative rather than attempt to evolve a new style of play. Needless to say Laslandes was never going to live up to his billing as the new Niall and was crushed under the expectation of playing that style of football.
Poor Nicklas was on a hiding to nothing during his spell on Wearside last year. Many fans had made up their mind based upon the "Worlds Greatest" reputation before he had even pulled on a red and white shirt and despite grabbing eight goals, a number of impressive performances and even donning a protective mask to play through the pain of a facial injury the Dane stood no chance of winning over large sections of the Sunderland following.
Our skipper is a man we have spent many an hour discussing on the podcast and have committed many words to print on this site and more often than not it is his disciplinary issues which have prompted us to do so. Sure his record isn't great by any stretch of the imagination but regardless of what the press and media will have you believe his reputation as a hatchet-man is a little harsh. The simple fact is that we are a better side at present with Lee Cattermole in the middle of the park, so maybe we will just have to face facts and realise his reputation comes as part of the deal.
1. Nicky Summerbee
Poor Nick, despite establishing himself as an integral cog in Peter Reid's swashbuckling side, providing consistently sublime ammunition onto the bonce of Niall Quinn week in, week out, he was still labelled as "lazy" by some. Sure his untucked shirt and unorthodox style may have given the appearance of a Sunday league clogger who had just finished off the remainder of last night's lager before kick-off but damn could the lad play a little.