David Bellion in action.
As you know, we love to bring you interviews with former players as and when we can, some are outright legends like Dennis Tueart (click here), others you simply haven't heard of for a while like Toby Hysen (click here).
Others may have only played for the club for a short period of time, but have quite a story to tell, and you'll not find many players who fit into that category more than today's interviewee, David Bellion. Maybe we didn't see the best of David at Sunderland, but he was without doubt a player with all the tools to make it as a top player, and is proving so now in Ligue 1.
So, to talk us through his eventful stay in the North East, and generally in English football, we have David Bellion, in his own words...You started your career at Cannes, but found yourself moving to Sunderland before playing a competitve game at the Pierre de Coubertin. How did the move come about ?
David: Ricky Sbragia came to watch the last game of the season whilst I was playing for Cannes reserve side. We played against a small team from Corsica that day, and I played really well. I had a good season that year with the reserves and a few French clubs wanted to sign me, bust also Sunderland and Fulham were interested. I chose Sunderland, I came to visit the stadium, the training ground, the city and I loved it!
What was it that attracted you to the club?
David: The stadium, the players and the challenge.
I'd imagine that moving from the South of France to the North East of England was quite a culture shock. Was it at all difficult to adapt ?
David: I lost my stepfather on the first day of training, so that was the shock of my life. He committed suicide and I never knew why. I was 18 and it was a strange period. However, my Mum and my friends used to come often to comfort me. Except from the weather, it was the best choice to make to come to Sunderland. I loved it. The people is fantastic and I really felt supported straight away.
You scored your 1st senior goal against Aston Villa, and a memorable strike it was. I recall that you were a late call up to the starting eleven that day too. What were your memories of the game?
David: The gaffer, Peter Reid, said to me on the Wednesday "If I start you in the the first eleven, will you score?", I said "Yeah I will", and I did! My Mother and my friends were in the stadium and it was an incredible feeling!
There was a course too a, shall we say, controversial move to Manchester United and it was alleged that you were "tapped up" by them. What, in your own words, really went on ?
David: The media said it was controversial but it went like a normal move to me. When I heard they were interested along with other clubs, I wanted to go to Manchester because it was a great opportunity. Sunderland were taking their time to renew my contract in the summer 2002, and they only offered me a deal when clubs started to contact them for me.
There were some sections from the Sunderland support who were unhappy that you'd "gone AWOL"... Do you ever wish you could go back and go about things differently, or do you stand by your decision at the time ?
David: I am sorry for the supporters, but again it was the media said I'd gone AWOL. Sunderland forced me to go to Lilleshall, the national sports center, to treat an injury that couldn't be treated at the club. It was ridiculous. I always loved Sunderland and I always will. After, I decided to see my family in France and get further treatment there. It got better so I came back. They knew where I was the whole time, but they made that (going AWOL) up of course to make the transfer more difficult, and more lucrative for themselves. I am talking about the board that used to run the club at the time.
It was also claimed at the time you could have went to Arsenal by their chairman David Dein. What was it like being in such high demand?
David: It was really good to feel in demand and wanted, but I am also very grateful of what Sunderland did for me.
Looking back at your time at Sunderland, how will you remember it over all ?
David: Overall, I became an adult in Sunderland. It was the first time I had left home and lived on my own. It was absolutely fantastic. A great club, true to itself, great supporters, and unforgettable people I crossed.
Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your time at the club?
David: Unfortunately not, but you can say hello to Cookie for me, the kitman. TOP MAN!!!
Do you look out for Sunderland's results at all still?
David: Yes I do, always. It's Sunderland that gave me a chance to make it. I owe them a lot.
Finally, what does the future hold for David Bellion...
David: Well, I have 2 kids, I am married, I play for Bordeaux, I just opened a restaurant and a private member's club with a barber so I hope the future will bring joy and peace. Not just for myself, but for everybody else too. I consider myself lucky in life to be a footballer, considering what's going on in the world.
And that's that. A really interesting and open interview with David about his time at the club. Clearly there's a lot of love there for Sunderland, and its really interesting to get his take on that move to Manchester United. If you find yourself in Bordeaux, as I will in September, why not check out David's restaurant and club. I will be.
Thanks once again to the staff of Bordeaux and David for their time.