Another interruption to the Stupid World Cup is upon us, but this time it’s okay, because Sunderland are still mint. This week sees us turn out against former Premier League yo-yo club West Bromwich Albion, and it is fair to say that we have shared absolutely thousands of players between us over the years.
We’ll ignore any from the current batch, notably Alex Pritchard’s horrific two-game loan spell at the Hawthorns back in 2016, and instead look to a pair of players to have made appearances for both clubs when we were playing in the Big Boys League.
In the latter stages of Steve Bruce’s time on Wearside, Benin international forward Stephane Sessegnon would prove to be a rare moment of genuine quality recruitment amidst Bruce’s dismantling of a once decent team.
Signed at the end of January 2011 from PSG for £6m, Sessegnon was a bit of an enigma to Sunderland fans, mainly because nobody had ever heard of him, and this was just before PSG became the Champions League desperate black hole of moneybags they are today. A career that had seen him tour France with Creteil, Le Mans and PSG, averaging a goal once every seven or eight games on the way, Sess was very much an under the radar signing, the type which sends proper wieners on Twitter off on a lecture about the xG of the French Ligue 1.
Sess’s first few months on Wearside were fairly quiet, and he had to wait until April to bag his first goal in a 4-2 win against Wigan, although he followed that up with further strikes against Wolves and West Ham, as Sunderland accidentally finished 10th, owing to Somen Tchoyi hilariously getting a hattrick against Newcastle on the final day. The 11/12 season saw Sess come into his own, finishing the season with eight goals, including a sublime effort in a 2-0 home win over Swansea in January 2012, as Sunderland lurched from Bruce to Martin O’Neill.
The slog that was the 12/13 season against saw Sess prove to be a rare spark of creative relief, as the club binned a lacklustre O’Neill and replaced him with the insanity that was Paolo Di Canio. It was under Di Canio that one of the forward’s most memorable moments in red and white came to pass, as it was his driving run and long range strike which opened the scoring in the first of the infamous six in a row, up at St. James’ Park. Sessegnon scored in the followed game at home to Everton as Sunderland pushed to secure top flight football late in the season yet again.
Then, in summer 2013, disaster struck. Despite being easily one of the most naturally gifted players in the squad, Di Canio seemingly fell out with Sessegnon, and once you fell out with Di Canio, there was rarely any going back. Just two games into the season and Sess was sold to league rivals West Brom. Naturally, we played the Baggies just 19 days later, lost 3-0 and of course, Sess scored on what was his debut. Chin up from Paolo.
Sessegnon went on to be his mercurial self for West Brom over the next three years, find himself to be a favourite of most of their many managers during that stint, and scoring notable goals against Chelsea and Manchester United on the way. However, as with all things tinged in talent and flair, the arrival of Tony Pulis was the death knell for Sessegnon at West Brom, and at the end of the 15/16 season, with only two goals to his name and an incredibly boring 14th place finish, Sessegnon was released.
Since his Baggies exit, Sessegnon took in a spell at Montpellier back in France before taking to Turkey with Genclerbirligi and Gocmenkoy (the latter is definitely made up), and now, at the ripe old age of 38, he’s still at it, and finds himself playing for Sirens FC, which if Wikipedia is to be believed, is a club ni the “north-western seaside village of San Pawl il-Bahar in Malta”. So that’s nice.
Sessegnon was a brilliant, if frustrating player for Sunderland, blessed with seemingly limitless talent but hampered by the fact that he was with us during Bruce’s decline and the sadly unadventurous tenure of O’Neill. Great chant though.
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Chocolate Fireguard himself, a classic of Peter Reid’s slightly unhinged foreign recruitment of the late 90s, Danish winger/forward (who actually knows?) Fredgaard arrived from Lyngby for a then hefty £1.5m. We can only assume that we were still giddy with the excitement of finding another Scandinavian superstar, as it was only a couple of years since the ridiculous success of signing little known countryman, Thomas Sorensen.
To be fair to him, Fredgaard’s record at Lyngby looked good, with 29 goals in 106 games at the age of 23, however, success very much did not follow. He made his debut as a second half sub for Kevin Ball on Sunderland’s opening day return to the Premier League, a 4-0 demolition at the hands of Chelsea, although on the plus side, he then won his first (and only) senior cap for Denmark two weeks later.
Runouts in the League Cup against Walsall (twice – scoring two in the second leg) and Wimbledon followed before he was loaned out to West Brom in February 2000 where he made five appearances, and seemingly brought his bad luck with him, as the Baggies won only two of those games.
A final appearance in red and white came at the start of the 00/01 season, coming off the bench in a 3-0 League Cup win against Luton, and that was it for Fredgaard’s time on Wearside. A suitably unfruitful loan to then Division One Bolton followed before he returned to Scandinavia with Danish giants FC Copenhagen, where he promptly won the league twice and the cup once. Lovely stuff for him.
Stays at fellow Danish clubs Nordsjaelland, Randers, AB, HIK and Graesodderne (not a clue) followed, before Fredgaard finally retired at the latter only last year, at the age of 45. Fredgaard’s name at Sunderland will always be held up as the slightly less hilarious chapter in the Milton Nunez saga of Peter Reid looking for the next best thing from abroad.
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