So…how are we all coping? Friday’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday has put our noses in front in the race for inevitable Wembley heartache, in what is essentially a much more hyped-up version of our first play-off campaign in this awful league against Portsmouth. That of course meaning that we’ll have to endure an onslaught at one of the big boy grounds for what’ll feel like six years and some troglodytes in the crowd will try to eat Luke O’Nien.
We already covered a couple of players who’ve got links to both ourselves and the Owls who’ve managed to experience promotion with at least one of the clubs, and today’s edition will focus on two members of Roy Keane’s much loved Championship winning squad, just to get us in the mood for some dramatic, swashbuckling, last gasp winners as we march our way to the capital.
Cast your minds back to August 2006; Niall Quinn had relieved himself of the manager’s job and replacing him was Roy Keane, armed with a weighty Drumaville cheque book as Sunderland looked to make amends on their stuttering start to the season. Our transfer business up until that point was five duds in Arnau Riera, Kenny Cunningham, Robbie Elliott, Clive Clarke and William Mocquet, with two players who ended up being useful in Darren Ward and Tobias Hysen. In came Keano and on the 31st August we signed Dwight Yorke, Graham Kavanagh, Stan Varga, Liam Miller, David Connolly and Ross Wallace, all for just under £5m.
Attacking left winger Wallace arrived from Celtic alongside Varga having found his playing time in Glasgow limited, having only made 14 appearances in their league and cup double winning team of 2006. The Scot was immediately thrown into starting line-up for our next game away to Derby County and scored the winner as the lads came back from a goal down to win 2-1, and in what would become a trademark of his, Wallace was booked for taking his shirt off and going mental in celebration of his goal.
Wallace was a tricky, gritty and skilful member of the Championship winning squad, chipping in with six goals in total, four of which turned out to be the decisive goal – and of course, his winning strike in the last minute away to Hull infamously saw him sent off for receiving a second yellow card…for taking his shirt off and going mental in celebration. Not even two months since getting booked for doing the same on his debut. Wallace rounded off a good season by netting one of the five goals away at Luton on the day we snatched the title from Steve Bruce, lovely stuff all round.
Into the Prem we went, and although he found his playing time harder to come by, owing largely to a serious injury, Wallace still managed 21 appearances for the lads, hitting two goals on the way, including what turned out to be the winner in a home clash with Reading in September 2007. Keane put the Scot on the transfer list halfway through that season, and Wallace eventually left in summer 2008, joining Preston North End on a season-long loan, and signing permanently the following year – a productive spell resulted in 80 games, 12 goals, and a controversial move to local rivals Burnley in summer 2010.
Four years in the Championship with Burnley followed before finally winning promotion as league runners up in 2014. Now playing more as a left-back, Wallace again managed to make a few sporadic showings in the Premier League for the Clarets, even scoring a last minute equaliser in a 2-2 with Leicester – he also managed to keep his shirt on, success all round. Wallace was released at the end of the 14/15 season and that’s where he joined up with Sheff Wed, looking to repeat his promotion tricks.
A firm regular in the Owls’ teams over the next three years, Wallace would go on to make 108 league appearances, scoring 10 goals on the way, and helping Wednesday reach the 2017 Championship play-offs. Importantly, Sheffield Wednesday were knocked out in the semi finals. SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY WERE KNOCKED OUT IN THE PLAY OFF SEMI FINALS. Please?
In the last couple of years of his career, Wallace bounced from a spell with Joey Barton’s Fleetwood Town (who most definitely did not get promoted), and a three-game stint with St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership before the season was knackered up due to covid, and he ultimately retired. Since hanging up the boots, Wallace has moved into coaching and is already part of the youth team setup at former club Burnley. He was great, was radgy Ross Wallace.
The second man who was also part of Keano’s title-winning squad was Irish international striker Daryl Murphy, although unlike Wallace, Murphy was already at the club when Roy arrived, having signed in our disastrous Premier League implosion the year before.
It was during his debut season with Sunderland that Murphy also ended up a Sheff Wed player, having been loaned out to the Owls in 2005/06. Hopefully his spell in blue and white translates to a lazy metaphor of their current campaign, as Murphy managed precisely no goals, albeit he was only given four games to get them in.
The 2006/07 season announced Murphy’s arrival in English football as he immediately became an integral part of Keane’s squad, making 38 appearances, most of which alongside David Connolly, and scoring 10 goals in the process – two of which game on that final day battering of Luton.
Much like Wallace though, Murphy found playing time in the Premier League hard to come by, barely making 50 appearances over the following three seasons, and only scoring three goals in that time – including an absolute belter against Wigan. A more productive loan spell with Ipswich saw out the last year of his stay on Wearside before Murphy made the move to Celtic, where he has the honour of being one of the few to have played for the Bhoys without winning any trophies. Three goals, 18 appearances and he was then loaned back to Ipswich, for 2 years (weird) before joining the Tractor Boys permanently in 2013.
Naturally, because it’s Ipswich, he also didn’t get promoted there, and after 5 seasons, 200+ appearances and 67 goals, Murphy moved to Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle. Despite being more of a squad player, Murphy proved to be something of an important part of the great unwashed’s team, hitting five goals in 15 as they won the Championship title. After a single year in black and white, Murphy moved on to middling spells with Nottingham Forest and Bolton before finishing his career back at Waterford in the League of Ireland, retiring in 2021. We’ll forget about that nastiness towards the end and remember that lovely mid 2000s promotion instead.