Played For Both – The players who have crossed enemy lines for the fake 340-mile derby

Stephen Kennedy takes a glance at the players who have played for both Sunderland and Portsmouth

It’s time for everybody’s favourite pretendy rivalry, because Portsmouth are coming to town! Brace yourselves everyone, it’s time to dredge through nearly two hours of monotonous “play up Pompey…Pompey play up” as we no doubt get ourselves into some silly fight or another. We don’t like them, and they don’t like us. Why? Some made up reason that no one’s quite sure of, but it probably has something to do with that cave troll and Mick Hucknall impersonator a few years back.

Thankfully, there have been a boatload of players to have turned out for two really far apart seaside clubs, which is particularly useful before we will play them another 6 billion times before we finally get back out of this utter farce of a league, so we’re not short on delicious content!

Younes Kaboul

The man who once famously said he wouldn’t join Sunderland “even if there was an earthquake”, seven years before he eventually signed for us from Spurs. It has always bugged me just how little sense this statement meant, as I don’t think that joining a football club is near the top of anyone’s list at a time of cataclysmic tectonic activity, but I digress.

Massive French unit Kaboul first arrived in English football at Tottenham in 2007, spending a hit and miss season in London before moving on to this weekend’s opponents for £6m. Despite spending two and a half years on the south coast, Kaboul’s appearances were somewhat limited, largely due to injury, turning out just 50 times before heading back to Spurs in January 2010.

His second stint in the capital was again mixed, making over 30 appearances in only one of his five and a half year stay, although in recognition of his undoubted ability, he was surprisingly given the armband in 2014… only to move to Sunderland a year later. I think it’s fair to say that not too many Sunderland fans were particularly enamoured by his signing; Kaboul was nearly 30, had spent years battling injury issues and dodgy form, and of course, the whole earthquake malarky. His first few appearances for us didn’t really help either, with one of his early appearances seeing him getting sent off at Bournemouth.

However, like many others that season, he became a new man under the guidance of Big Sam. Kaboul formed a formidable partnership with the good version of Lamine Kone with the pair keeping out steady hand John O’Shea for the majority of the remainder of the season.

A series of cultured but brutish showings, alongside being the brains behind Kone’s brilliance, mean that Kaboul is very much one of the unsung heroes of the Allardyce days, and is very much one of the main reasons we survived that year – famously confirmed in the home win over Everton, celebrated by Kaboul in tears amidst the noise of the Stadium of Light.

Unfortunately for us, Kaboul seemingly sensed the impending doom David Moyes was bringing with him, and left for Watford at the start of the 16/17 season, citing personal reasons. Our defence was never the same and down the Premier League drain we went.

Marc Wilson

From the sublime to the utterly ridiculous. We went from Younes Kaboul to Marc Wilson within 12 months. A last ditch, late summer free signing after he’d been released by Bournemouth, for whom he made precisely zero appearances, Marc Wilson in undoubtedly one of the worst defenders we have had the pleasure of witnessing in recent years.

The Irishman started his career at Pompey in 2006, racking up 35 appearances before leaving for Stoke in 2010. Incredibly, Stoke played this human traffic cone 146 times in the Premier League. The top division of English football. A supreme grift.

Wilson was part of the Grayson-Coleman Championship Destroy And Exit Experience. Never have I witnessed a centre-back with a worse turning circle, nor one with a total lack positional or defensive awareness. Wilson was integral to our abject implosion on 17/18 which saw us arrive in League One, not necessarily for lack of trying, but he looked like he’d retired years before joining us, yet incredible, he was the same age as Kaboul was when he joined us.

Clearly deciding he wanted to live the future Sunderland experience, when Wilson left Wearside after a catastrophe of a season, he joined up with everybody’s favourite sad bus driver, Phil Parkinson, at fellow basket case club Bolton. He celebrated this escape from League One by immediately getting Wanderers relegated…to League One.

Released into the wild in 2019, Wilson then spent two years without a club before, what I can only assume is out of boredom, he packed up and moved to Iceland, where to date, Wikipedia thinks he’s made one appearance for Vogum, which may or may not be made up.

There are many, many more players to have turned out for both, good and bad, but the important thing is, I didn’t mention Jermain Defoe once.