It’s new season eve already, and either the last twos have flown by, or, more accurately, they’ve moved slower than the average snail, while the summer has been wetter than the proverbial otter’s pocket.
We may have lost Amad, we may still (somehow) only have one fit striker at the club, and we may well be the poorest ran club from a basic admin perspective in the entire Football League, but what we do have is a team packed with exciting young players who will all be looking to build on our frankly outrageously good finish last year.
So to start this season’s look into players who have graced both sides, we’ll pick one who was part of our League One odyssey…
When Sunderland signed Nathan Broadhead on loan in August 2021, the main question we all asked was some variation of “who in the blue hell is Nathan Broadhead”. The Welsh forward had only made one cameo appearance for parent club Everton, and a largely middling spell on loan at Burton the previous year, but was already 23 years old at the time we brought him in. Was he a late bloomer? Unlucky with injuries? Had Everton just imagined him?
Thankfully for us, the first two seemed to be the case for Broadhead. Not quite a number 9, and not quite a winger, Broadhead had to be patient to make his way into the Sunderland first team and had to make do with goals in the League Cup and Pizza Cup (Wigan and Bradford, respectively), as the form of Ross Stewart and an injury that saw him miss all of October kept him thoroughly out of the starting line up.
The Welshman’s first league goal for the club didn’t arrive until the end of November, where he got the winner away at Cambridge, but this sparked a purple patch for him which would see him plunder a further 5 goals in his next 5 games. Unfortunately however, the last of those goals would come away to Arsenal in the FA Cup, where he knackered his hamstring and we were subsequently bodied 5-1, just before Christmas in 2021.
We didn’t see Broadhead again at all until he resurfaced in March, where he was seemingly rushed back to fitness, played 70 minutes and then was not seen again for another month.
On his return in April, Broadhead hit another great run of form, where he found a knack for scoring late winners as Sunderland made our herculean push to just keep up with the rest of the play-off teams. Three of Broadhead’s five goals in April were winners, two of them (Gillingham and Shrewsbury) came after the 90th minute. Simply put, without Nathan Broadhead, we would not have finished in the play-offs at all.
Unfortunately however, injury struck Broadhead once more away at Morecambe on the final day of the regular season, and his was forced off after 25 minutes, having scored the only goal of the game. The injury meant we only got a brief glimpse of him away at Hillsborough, and an 88th minute substitute appearance at Wembley as the Lads finally got over the League One line.
Broadhead became a popular player with the fans thanks to his undeniable talent, and that knack of scoring important goals, and so it looked like everyone was going to be happy with the outcome of a drawn-out transfer saga for once, when we were apparently within a cats whisker from signing him permanently last summer.
Instead, a last minute change of heart saw him sign a new deal with Everton, and be loaned out to the Former Sunderland Players Who Aren’t Quite Up To The Job Club, also known as Wigan Athletic.
Wigan were atrocious last year, with their annual tradition of having their owners nearly destroy the entire club, and they didn’t utilise Broadhead effectively at all in the process.
The forward did manage 22 games and 5 goals, but more often than not found himself on the bench behind such luminaries at Josh Magennis and Ashley Fletcher. The loan spell was cut short in January, Wigan went down, disaster all round.
Broadhead however, was sold by Everton in January to our visitors this weekend, Ipswich Town. Now I’m not saying he was the direct catalyst for their stupendous rise to the top and promotion from League One, but in the 19 games Broadhead played for the Tractor Boys last season, they only lost once, his debut away at Oxford.
The goals started coming again for Broadhead, but his knack for the dramatic wasn’t necessary, as Ipswich were blowing teams away 3-0, 4-0 and 6-0 as they finished second, escaping that wretched hive of scum and villainy, also known as League One.
Naturally, I expect Broadhead to score against us in the 97th minute on Sunday, but the good news is he is now an injury doubt for the game, but I won’t relax until the final whistle is gone if he’s anywhere near the pitch. An excellent player for Sunderland, and a genuine shame we didn’t get him back permanently.
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