It feels like decades have passed since the Lads gave us that lovely little afternoon out in Hertfordshire, thank you very much absolutely pointless international break indeed. But we’re back, and we’re playing one the most Championship teams in the history of the Championship, Preston North End.
North End feel like a proper staple of the second tier, and aside from seemingly every guest that’s ever been on the Undr The Cosh podcast, a good few Preston players have also turned out in the red and white of Sunderland.
Let’s start with a name familiar to regular listeners of our very own, non-Jon Parkin affiliated podcast, it’s Official Friend Of The Pod, Stephen Elliott. It has disgustingly been almost 20 years since Mick McCarthy signed a then 20 year old Republic of Ireland striker from Manchester City, causing a minor kick-off with the FA, resulting in a £125k tribunal fee.
Although highly rated, Elliott had only made two late sub appearances for Man City at the time of his transfer, so his arrival was greeted with equal parts excitement and a need hope we hadn’t just signed another youngster doomed to be a Michael Reddy style flash in the pan.
Thankfully, we were allowed to immediately revel in that excitement, as Elliott nabbed his first goal in red and white in only his second appearance, getting the third in our 3-1 win over Crewe. Also scoring that game was the man who would make up the second part of a potent partnership, Marcus Stewart, between the two of them, and Kevin Kyle, Sunderland found themselves rolling in goals throughout the 2004/05 season. Sunderland needed to start the campaign given that the previous season had ended in a giant, Neil Shipperley (still a foul) mess, and things initially looked rocky, only winning one of the first six games, that one being against Crewe.
Thankfully, things did pick up, as McCarthy’s side, packed full of young talent such as Dean Whitehead, Liam Lawrence, and of course, Elliott started notching up wins on the regular. Despite the lack of experience, the Lads had a storming second half of the season, including 12 wins in the last 15 games. Elliott played a major part in that success, helping himself to 15 goals on the way, and of course, the most important goal of the lot came in 87th minute away to West Ham, clinching the title.
Unfortunately, injury struck Elliott in Sunderland’s disastrous return to the Premier League, limiting him to 15 appearances, and although his 2 goals both came in losses (including a belter at St James’ Park), although he did nab himself his first international goal against Cyprus.
Back down Sunderland went and in came Roy Keane, bringing with him a host of players who’d at least one point worn either the green of Ireland or Celtic. Again, injuries took a bit of a toll on Elliott’s season, but he still managed 24 league appearances, scoring in wins against Leeds and Colchester as Sunderland battered their way to the title. However, that would end up being the last year at the club for Elliott, as upon promotion back to the Premier League, he moved on to Wolves, reuniting with Mick McCarthy once more.
A single, frustrating season in the Black Country brought only four goals and a play off defeat before the forward headed off to this weekend’s opponents, Preston. North End were looking to bounce on from a season of relegation worries the previous year, and, aided by Elliott and the aforementioned cast of Undr The Cosh, the club ended up finishing 6th, where they tasted playoff defeat thanks to, of all things, a Greg Halford goal for Sheffield United. Elliott’s injury worries were seemingly behind him at Deepdale, as he turned out 40 times in all competitions in the 08/09 season, bagging 6 goals on the way.
His second year at Preston however, was less successful, as new manager Darren blitzed all progress made by the club the previous year, ultimately finishing 17th. Elliott was sent out on loan to Norwich for their mad stint in League One, helping himself to 2 goals against Huddersfield, and a league winners medal in the process.
A successful two year stay at Hearts north of the border followed in 2010 where Elliott was part of the Jambos side who memorably stuffed local rivals Hibs 5-1 in the Scottish FA Cup final. As the Irishman’s career began to wind down, he took in brief spells at Coventry and Carlisle, before heading back home in 2016, first with Shelbourne and then Drogheda United. However, Sleeves had clearly caught the same bug as Julio Arca, albeit with much fewer air miles, as he found himself finishing off his career back in the North East, joining up with Morpeth Town for the 17/18 season, before retiring at the end of that year.
Sleeves can currently be found turning out pieces for the Sunderland Echo and you’ll even catch him on WMS from time to time.
Now, rightly so, not many Sunderland will remember Ty Browning (possibly due to deliberately blocking him out for PTSD reasons), but he was a fully fledged member of the squad that fully bombed out of the Championship in our last foray into this division, all captured on Netflix cameras, of course.
At the time of joining us, Browning’s career looked to be full of promise and on the up; he’d made a few sporadic appearances for parent club Everton in the Big Boys League, alongside a brief cameo on loan at Wigan in 2014. A nice and boring stint on loan at Preston in 2017 showed that, while not spectacular, Browning appeared to have what it took to make it at Championship level at least, he even picked up a handful of caps for the England Under 21s.
Then of course, he joined Sunderland on loan for the 17/18 season, alongside the rogues gallery of Jason Steele, Brendan Galloway, Callum McManaman and Marc Wilson. Although not the worst of out loanees specifically from Everton that year, Browning damningly was a mainstay of the Grayson-Coleman disaster period of August-March, during which time we kept a pitiful five clean sheets in 27 games. Great stats for a defender.
Browning’s last game for the club came on the 6thMarch 2018, a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Aston Villa, where a returning Lewis Grabban salted the very earth of the Stadium of Light and Bryan Oviedo didn’t help the mood by helping himself to an own goal. Great times all round.
The following year back at Everton did nothing to show that Browning had recovered from the debacle of the previous season, as he was restricted to three appearances…all for the Everton Under 21s in the Checkatrade…none of which Everton won or kept a clean sheet in.
Then things got weird! Browning up sticks and left Merseyside for pastures new. Pastures which were literally thousands of miles away, as he found himself at Guangzhou Evergrande in China, under the management of Italian work cup winning captain Fabio Cannavaro. Browning has been in China ever since, and has recently moved to Shanghai Port FC, where he plays alongside former Premier League and Brazil international midfielders Oscar and Paulinho. He scored what is still the only goal of his career on his Shanghai debut. None of this makes sense.
To take things a step further into the unexpected, Browning now qualifies to play for China at an international level, and, using his Chinese name (was not aware this was a thing, but it’s great) of Jiang Guangtai, he made his international debut in a World Cup qualifying match against the mighty Guam in May 2021.
Fair play to you, Ty Browning, for having the sense to flee as far away from Sunderland as possible, even changing your name in the process.