This is it everyone, it’s time for one of the most ridiculously long journeys in English football. There are 402 miles between Sunderland and Plymouth, 402! You could pretty much get to Paris by travelling for just as far, but what do they know about pasties? But at least it’s not our turn to make the trek, so while we’re safe in the knowledge that most of us won’t be sitting on a coach for all but three hours of the weekend, let’s remember some of the players insane enough to have lived in at opposite ends of the country for small, usually unfulfilling times, because this, lads and lasses, is a true rogues’ gallery.
Everyone loves a trier, and in football, showing maximum effort and dedication can sometimes just about disguise the fact that you are severely lacking in ability. No more so was that evident in Callum Jeffrey McFadzean’s fever dream of a career at Sunderland. To say he wasn’t up to the standard of his teammates would be kind, and watching Aiden McGeady’s look of sheer exasperation after each misplaced five-yard pass, it was only McFadzean’s vacant enthusiasm and work rate that saved him from a bollocking every time he touched the ball.
McFadzean’s career has been all over the place, both geographically and in terms of success – bouncing from Sheffield United, Kilmarnock, Bury and currently Crewe, along with four loan spells and two stints in non-league, but 2019-2021 was the big time for the dozy left back. Following a season at Plymouth which can only be described as “not terrible”, which saw him get promoted from League Two, McFadzean joined Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland in October 2020, a season which can unfortunately be described as “having happened”.
His main talent was to get the everloving snot beaten out of him every single game, notably holding the Pizza Cup trophy proudly aloft whilst looking like he’d been thrown in a cement mixer, no one can knock McFadzean’s effort. But he was awful. Just horrendous. There’s an argument that he may be the worst professional footballer ever employed by Sunderland AFC, but I love him, especially now that he’s not ours.
— CALLUM MCFADZEAN (@McfadzeanCallum) March 14, 2021
Now, keeping in mind that “the worst professional footballer” titled I just bestowed, the recent history of both clubs also sees two that could really stake a claim for that same accolade. Brendan Galloway and Remi Matthews. The former was so bad, he’s some how anonymous in Sunderland Till I Die, despite being the worst of all the outfield players we endured that season. He’s currently showing the audacity to try and rebuild his career at Argyle, however, he’s currently out until next season with a dislocated knee, so we’ll not be too mean, but good god. I’d rather have McFadzean.
Remi Matthews however, only gets away with being the third worst keeper in Sunderland’s history on account of him playing notably fewer games than Lee Camp and Jason Steele. I have yet to see proof that he actually has hands, such was his standard of goalkeeping at Sunderland (see Shrewsbury Town). Yet Plymouth fans love him almost as much as Parky does, as they finished narrowly outside the League One playoffs with him clowning around in goal in 2018. He is now under contract at Crystal Palace, in the Premier League, with Steele.
Our very own Beano extra, Tom Flanagan played four times on loan to Plymouth from MK Dons back in 2015 – imagine that, 228 miles for 4 games – and former Sunderland academy player who we probably should’ve done something more productive with, Conor Hourihane made him footballing name with the Greens from 2011-2014.
As for managers, the two clubs have experienced polar opposite ends of Peter Reid. At Sunderland, Reidy probably doesn’t need to buy a pint for as long as there are people around who still remember the 90s. At Plymouth, he finished 23rd in League One in his only season at the club in 2010/11 – football is a fast moving, harsh mistress.
Oh, and Micky Horswill, 1973 cup-winning local boy, and serial function/radio show presence made the majority of his league appearances at Plymouth in the mid-late 70s. But who needs to hear more about that team? As a vacuous left back once said, “just a cup game, in’t it?”.