Played For Both Sides – A pair of utter disasters on Wearside

We take a look at two of the many players to have turned out for both Sunderland and Reading in their careers

Oh well, didn’t want to win the FA Cup anyway.

What better a way to get over being knocked out of the cup than to take in the joys of everyone’s favourite meh football club, Reading FC. If Reading were a crayon, they’d be beige. If Reading were a band, they’d be post-2004 U2. If Reading were a spice, they’d be flour.

I fully accept that they will now wallop us.

That’s not to say that Reading haven’t had some good players in the past, just that most of the ones they’ve shared with Sunderland have been utter disasters, and that’s who we’re going to look at today!

Ian Harte

Simply put, Ian Harte was a cult hero of the late 90s/early 00s Premier League. An attacking left back who scored a highlight reel of long rangers and free kicks for Leeds United during their Champions League-bothering era. The Irishman only ended his eight-year stay at Elland Road in 2004 upon their relegation to the Championship as the proverbial was very much hitting the fan for the Yorkshire outfit.

Harte seemed determined to take up an option outside of the UK, which was at that time seemingly restricted exclusively to megastars like Beckham and Owen to Real Madrid, or Vinny Samways to Las Palmas (what a hero). So when Harte moved to Spain, you’d have expected the likes of the Madrids, Barca or Valencia to come calling, but no, he signed for newly-promoted Levante. He promptly scored a free-kick on his debut in a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, lovely stuff.

A series of injuries and relegation hampered Harte’s progress in Spain though, and although they did return to La Liga at the first time of asking, he missed half the season and had his contract terminated in the summer of 2008.

Up steps Roy Keane and his band of lunatics and/or Irish internationals. Sunderland had just returned to the Premier League and so the signing of an experienced, proven Premier League left back seemed to make sense, so he put pen to paper on a one year deal in August 2007.

Ian Harte’s Sunderland career consisted of eight league games, of which, Sunderland lost six and drew the other two. His crowning moment in red and white would be making up part of the defence (alongside fellow future Reading player Paul McShane) that would concede seven at Goodison Park. He was transfer listed in January, and incredibly, was only 30 years old while at Sunderland.

Released in summer 2008, It took Harte until December of that year to play for another club, this time turning out for Championship Blackpool five times (winning only once) before being picked up by Carlisle for the latter half of the 08/09 season. Harte rebuilt himself at Carlisle, scoring 19 goals in 52 games from full-back, and you’d be forgiven for saying he’d found his level at the back end of his career, but then in August 2010 he moved back up to the Championship with Reading and was something of a revelation.

Harte scored a penalty on his debut against Palace, and hit a trademark free-kick against Barnsley in his fourth game for the club; he finished his first season as a Royal with 13 goals as they lost to Swansea in the play-off final, and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. Harte was part of the Reading side that won the Championship in 11/12 and found himself playing Premier League football again after a gap of four years and three divisions. His playing time was somewhat decreased at this stage but he did manage 18 games as Reading made an immediate return to the second tier.

Released in the summer of 2013, Harte moved on to Bournemouth, and scored another free-kick (although this would be the last time) against Birmingham in March 2014. Harte’s final season saw him win the Championship against with the Cherries before hanging up the boots in August 2015.

An incredible player for pretty much everyone other than Sunderland (and probably Blackpool).

Joined Left League Apps League Goals
Sunderland 2007 2008 8 0
Reading 2010 2013 88 15

Ovie Ejaria

Turning away from an experience head, we have Ovie Ejaria, a youngster brought in on loan by Chris Coleman to try and breathe some life into Sunderland’s rapidly melting survival chances in the 2017/18 disaster season.

By “brought in on loan” I of course mean, “kidnapped under duress and thrown to the lions”. Ejaria had only just turned 20 when he joined Sunderland, and his entire career to that point had consisted of easy strolls about the park for Liverpool in five cup wins and cameos in Premier League games they won 6-1 and 3-0 respectively. A creative central midfielder by trade, it was thought maybe he could pull the strings Darron Gibson had wrapped around a lamppost for the flailing Sunderland side frantically circling the Championship plug hole.

Without being harsh, I think we can say that Ejaria made no difference to our fortunes whatsoever. His 11 appearances in red and white included Bristanbul and a goal against Wolves on the final day of the season – that pointless win against the champions would be the only game he’d win in a Sunderland shirt.

Loan spells with Rangers and Reading followed before he made the permanent move to Berkshire in August 2020 for £3.5m. In total, Ejaria has now made comfortably over 100 appearances in blue and white, and when he’s available, he shows glimpses of the promising, exciting talent which Sunderland very nearly snuffed out entirely, but fitness does appear to now be an issue for him – he’s only made eight appearances all season, and not one since November.

So it’s unlikely that we’ll see him at the weekend, which is probably for the best as I’d fully understand if the sight of the Stadium of Light is a massive PTSD trigger for him.

Joined Left League Apps League Goals
Sunderland 2018 2018 11 1
Reading 2019 Present 118 10