Quick! Let’s read something to be a slight distraction from the utter mess that is the end of the transfer window.
So our visitors this weekend might be (at the time of writing) about to take our best striker since Jermain Defoe (the first time), but that doesn’t mean we can look fondly back on another player to have scored some important goals for Sunderland before moving on to Southampton, does it?
File Stern John firmly under the “Christ, I forgot about him” section of Sunderland players of the last 20 years, but his signing was a key piece of Roy Keane’s successful Championship-winning first season at the Stadium of Light.
Trinidadian striker John started out his career with a string of spectacularly named clubs from 1996-1998; Malta Carib Alcons, Carolina Dynamo and New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers (10/10), before he found himself in the newly re-jigged MLS with Columbus Crew.
At Columbus, John quite frankly took the mick out of the league, scoring 44 times in 55 games, and that was enough to persuade Nottingham Forest, recently relegated from the Premier League, to part with £1.5m for his services in November 99.
Forest were at the very beginning of their 23 year death spiral, so despite John hitting a respectable 20 goals in 78 games in all competitions for them, they at no point threatened a return to the top flight, and surprisingly, they were willing to let go of the marksman for a meagre £150k when Birmingham City came calling in February 2002.
Naturally, Birmingham immediately stuck two fingers up at their Midlands neighbours and laughed their way to the Premier League via a play-off win over Norwich, with Stern John scoring 8 times in his 18 games for the Blues at the back end of the 02/03season. An experience striker grabbing important goals at a key time of the season, outrageous.
Gametime was a little more difficult to come by for John in the Premier League, but he still managed 30 appearances all in, scoring five goals in the process; his second season saw more of the same with 4 goals in 25 as Brum extended their top flight status.
After two and a half years at Birmingham, John was allowed to move on, back down to the Championship with another Midlands outfit, Coventry City for another bargain price of £200k in September 04.
This was at a time where Coventry had been poor for a couple of years, but had yet to go full basket case, but it still took a herculean effort of 11 goals from John to help keep them just about afloat, with a 19th placed finish in his first year.
His second season was much more successful for the club, as Coventry finished eighth in 2006 (their highest until last season), with another 10 goals to his name – more impressive as he was bizarrely loaned out to Derby for a goalless two-month stint at the start of the season.
The 06/07 season saw John kick things off with a goal in their 2-1 win against Sunderland, and he’d go on to net five more times for the Sky Blues before Roy Keane managed to bring him to Wearside right at the death of the January 2007 transfer window.
The Sunderland squad had a largely inexperienced (or injured) strike force, with David Connolly as the only proven quantity at Championship level, so the move to bring in the then 30 year old John was a shrewd one, as he simply knew where the goal was.
Stern John’s move to Sunderland was an uncharacteristic transfer success story. He hit his first goals with a brace in a 4-0 home win against Southend on his third game, scored the winner in a vital win over West Brom and secured victory over Hull with a 90th minute goal to give us a 2-0 triumph.
The rest of John’s appearances for in red and white were either cameo sub appearances, or a top level example of a stubborn striker making a nuisance of himself to occupy defenders; Sunderland lost only one of the 15 Championship game in which Stern John played as we claimed the title and promotion to the Premier League.
It was with a little surprise, however, to see John still in the Sunderland squad by the time our Premier League campaign kicked off, but he maintained his record for us perfectly, by coming off the bench to net a last minute equaliser against old club Birmingham before jetting off into the sunset. The sunset in this case being Southampton, as he headed to the South Coast in a deal which saw international teammate Kenwyne Jones move to Wearside.
Clearly looking to repeat John’s knack for scoring important goals for teams aiming for promotion, Southampton’s season went spectacularly wrong, as the club finished 20th. On a personal level, John had a lovely old time, scoring 19 goals, which makes you think just how bad the rest of the Saints team really was.
His second season at St Mary’s was less fun, limited to a handful of sub and cup appearances, he was loaned out to Bristol City where he only managed two in 24 (in 3-1 and 4-1 losses, respectively), as Southampton went with David McGoldrick up top, and were promptly relegated, second bottom of the Championship.
For his final year in England, John first headed to Crystal Palace, but after a poor first few months, found himself loaned out to Ipswich, where it reunited with Roy Keane. His only goals for Ipswich came with a brace against former club Coventry, and he was back to Palace for their run in. Out from the cold, John scored important goals in a win against Watford and draw with Derby as Palace narrowly avoided relegation to League One.
A stint in non-league and back in Trinidad followed before John officially retired in 2018 aged 41. Since retiring, he’s taken managerial roles with Central FC, Anguilla and currently, the Saint Lucia national team.
The point is though, if you sign a proven striker, no matter what you think of his ability, and you put him in a team that creates chances, you’ll probably get results. Nice, that.
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