Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.
KEANE SEALS STOKES DEAL:
SUNDERLAND were today poised to complete the signing of free-scoring Anthony Stokes after an 11th hour change of heart by the Arsenal striker saw him pull out of a move to Premiership Charlton.
The in-demand 18-year-old has been involved in a three-way tug-of-war for his services between Sunderland, Charlton Athletic and Celtic.
And on Saturday evening it looked as though Charlton had won the battle for the signature of a player who has scored a remarkable 16 goals in 18 games while on loan at Scottish Premier League outfit Falkirk.
But after a late intervention by Black Cats boss Roy Keane, it appears Stokes has changed his mind and opted to move to Wearside.
Although there was a silence from the Stokes camp today, the player was believed to be in the North East undergoing a medical before putting pen to paper on a £2m-plus deal.
Arsenal have agreed to let the player move on and Celtic has been early favourites to sign him, given the fact that Stokes grew up as a fervent Celtic supporter.
But the lure of bigger wages and Premiership football looked certain to have won the day on Saturday with Stokes even offering up quotes saying how difficult it had been to turn down Gordon Strachan at Celtic and Keane at Sunderland.
A late intervention by Keane though, seems to have influenced Stokes’ decision and forced him into a rethink.
And at the time of going to press, it seemed only a matter of hours before Stokes joined Sunderland, five months after spending a stint on trial at the Stadium of Light under then manager Niall Quinn.
Celtic were disappointed with the player’s decision to definitely snub them.
Sunderland and Charlton are believed to have offered the striker wages of £14,000 a week with Celtic unprepared to go over a four-figure weekly wage.
That decision was said to have left life-long Celtic fan Stokes ‘heartbroken’, with his father and agent John saying: “It looked like being a dream come true – it felt like winning the lottery when we arrived at Parkhead for talks Anthony loves Celtic and was prepared to accept less money to play for them. We thought it was a done deal.”
Celtic were unimpressed though with Gordon Strachan saying: “I’m not disappointed, we’ll still get good players to come here. For Stokes it was a straight yes or no decision and he made it.”
On Saturday night, Stokes looked Charlton-bound, saying: “It was a very tough call but the prospect of playing in the Premiership drew me. I spoke to Roy Keane and Gordon Strachan and it was a privilege to have those people interested. It’s the hardest decision I have ever made.”
That seemed to be that.
But yesterday, it emerged that Keane had not given up the chase and the Sunderland manager’s determination seems to have won the day.
Should Stokes agree to join Sunderland he will be Royal Keane’s third signing of the January transfer window, joining Carlos Edwards and loan signing Jonny Evans.
BARDSLEY WILL JOIN VILLA:
MANCHESTER UNITED right-back Phil Bardsley will disappoint Sunderland by signing for Aston Villa in the next 48 hours.
The 21-year-old was in Birmingham this morning finalising talks before undergoing a medical prior to a move to Villa Park.
Villa boss Martin O’Neill has won his battle with Roy Keane for the player’s services and the Sunderland manager has been told that Bardsley will not be coming to the North East.
O’Neill said: “I spoke to Sir Alex about Phil and he doesn’t mind at all about Phil coming to Villa.
“Things aren’t signed, sealed and delivered yet, so there are still potential pitfalls but he should be coming to join us.”
Despite the Villa manager’s understandable caution, the move looks a done deal with the paper work going through today, the medical being completed and Bardsley expected to be unveiled as a Villa player tomorrow.
Sunderland have also been linked with Plymouth Argyle left-back Tony Capaldi. The 26-year-old Northern Irishman, who is out of contract in the summer, is comfortable on the ball and can also play on the left side of midfield.
The Black Cats are also said to be interested in signing Bohemians winger Stephen Ward, but it looks as though Mick McCarthy’s Wolves have stolen a march in the chase for the Northern Ireland Under-21 international.