With James McFadden's move to Motherwell ending any chance of an unwelcome return to Wearside, we got the thinking. Who is the most pointless signing The Black Cats have made? Take a look as we run through the names that history has forgotten, and the players who offered absolutely nothing.
10. Alan Foggon
Our first entry on the list is one of the few players to have turned for all three of the big North-East clubs. He won the Fairs Cup with Newcastle, and was a huge cult hero at Middlesbrough, but his move to Sunderland in 1976 from Manchester United sparked the beginning of his decline.
Already humorously overweight while playing for Middlesbrough, (Harry Pearson in his ode to North East football 'The Far Corner', noted that his figure and tuft of hair above his ears made him resemble a 'Magellan Penguin') he played just 8 times for Sunderland before Bob Stokoe, who signed him, resigned and was replaced by Jimmy Adamson. Foggon and Adamson never got on, with the player later describing his manager as 'a horrible man', and he never played for Sunderland again. Overall, a pretty pointless signing.
9. Andy Cole
There's a recurring phenomenon in football clubs, particularly with Championship and newly-promoted Premier League sides, in buying experienced players who, though once excellent, are by now completely past it, and who move from club to club picking up what might be there last paycheque. Sunderland are no exception to this. Brian Deane signed for Mick McCarthy's Championship-winning side, and proved to be nothing more than a big lump. Alan Stubbs stayed for a little while, never looked comfortable, then left to return to his beloved Everton, but the classic example is probably Andy Cole, who was signed by Roy Keane, played a handful of games in which he was anonymous, then left. In the future, just retire gracefully lads.
8. Jan Eriksson & Thomas Helmer
Speaking of players who looked past it, two defenders who were big on the continent during the 1990's, but whose legs were gone when they signed for Sunderland. Eriksson score the equaliser against England in Euro 92 for that great Swedish side containing Dahlin and Brolin. Helmer was a European Championship winner with Germany, yet both only played one full game a piece for Sunderland. Rumours of falling outs with Peter Reid in both instances are rife, but the truth is both players were too far over the hill by the time they arrived on Wearside.
7. Gerry Harrison
The case of Gerry Harrison is an odd one. Signed by Peter Reid from Burnley (where he'd made more than 100 appearances), he never featured for Sunderland before being loaned out to a series of clubs. Apparently turning up for pre-season extremely overweight, Kevin Phillips tells a story in his autobiography of the squad going on a cross-country run, with Harrison lagging miles behind to the amusement of his teammates and the annoyance of Reid. It was later revealed that Harrison had a medical problem that caused his fluctuations in fitness, and shortly after his stay at Sunderland, was left to play for a series of non-league clubs.
6. Tom Peeters
What can one say about Tom Peeters... nothing. He doesn't have a Wikipedia page and I'm a very lazy writer.
5. Arnau Riera
Niall Quinn's brief spell as manager was a bit of a disaster. Winning only one game (the one where his replacement Roy Keane watched from the stands), his transfer activity was equally rubbish, with only Darren Ward and Kenny Cunningham providing any use. Frenchman William Mocquet failed to make a single appearance, Robbie Elliot and Clive Clarke only played a handful of game between them, but perhaps the most pointless of them all was Arnau Reira.
Signed from Barcelona, where he was Lionel Messi's captain for two seasons in the 'B' team, we will never know if he had the technical skill we've come to expect from the Catalonia club, as he was sent off just three minutes into his only start in a League Cup tie at Bury, which Sunderland lost. He never played again. Out of all the names that have managed Sunderland, Quinn takes the crown for the biggest purveyor of pointless signings.
4. Ian Rodgerson
A player who some believe to be the worst to have played for Sunderland. The right winger signed for Terry Butcher, during the blood-stained former England captain's disastrous spell as manager. Rodgerson played just 10 games for the Rokermen, where he was awful, and is probably most famous on Wearside for being in an entirely fitting car crash with fellow Butcher signings Phil Gray and Derek Ferguson, temporarily injuring them all. This proved to be a symbolic incident in a very dark time for the club.
3. Kevin Cooper
Now for a section I like to call 'Mick McCarthy's Incredibly Pointless Loan Signings'. Football League clubs regularly make use of the loan market, and McCarthy used is to the fullest advantage by signing Simon Johnson (5 appearences), Colin Cooper (3 apparences) and Kevin Smith (0 appearances. Alright so he wasn't a loanee but he was still a useless MicMac signing and he didn't fit anywhere else on this list). Perhaps the most pointless of them all though was Kevin Cooper, who signed on loan from Wolves, made one substitute appearance and then disappeared. Hard to know what Mick saw in him, but in an interview on his signing praised his 'commitment' for 'coming up for a trial on New Year's Day', which is always a solid gold reason to sign a footballer.
2. James McFadden
The man who's responsible for this entire piece in the first place. McFadden's signing remains a complete mystery. Even O'Neill himself didn't seem to be too optimistic about the transfer working out saying, 'Whether it's the James McFadden of old, which would be good news for us, that's something we will have to wait and see'. Hardly a ringing endorsement from your new manager. He made just three substitute appearances, and if anyone can remember him doing anything during those games, NASA would like you to get in touch so they can perform experiments on your flawless memory.
1. Tal Ben-Haim
When coming up with this list, it surprised me just how many names there were that popped up throughout the club's history as being completely and utterly pointless signings. Honorary mentions go to Benjani, Russell Anderson and John Colquhoun. Anyone on this list could have conceivably 'won' this honour, but in the end, I'm going for everyone's favourite mercenary Tal Ben Haim. The fomer Chelsea player was signed on-loan by Ricky Sbragia to help Sunderland avoid relegation, but only made 5 appearances, normally out of position, leading us all to question why on earth we'd signed him.
Inexplicably still getting paid by clubs to sit on their respective benches, Tal Ben Haim is a fitting recipient of this title, as he's generally a bit of a pointless footballer. Just make sure no-one tells him in case he thinks this award has a cash prize.