Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.
LIVE THE DREAM:
Keane and Quinn’s ambition convinced Stokes to sign up
ANTHONY STOKES signed for Sunderland after being sold the dream of Sunderland Football Club chairman Niall Quinn and manager Roy Keane.
The prolific teenage striker agreed a £2million transfer to Wearside after a weekend of non-stop negotiations which ended in the two other clubs chasing his signature – Celtic and Charlton – being turned down at the 11th hour.
Stokes and family arrived on Wearside at the weekend and were wined and dined by the club and given as clear a picture as possible of how ambitious Sunderland are as a club and where it is going in the short and long term.
And it was that vision, coupled with the passion and enthusiasm of the club’s chairman and manager, which proved key to the 18-year-old.
The Northern Irish youngster said: “I spoke to Roy Keane about everything and he told me his hopes for the club. That helped make my mind up and now it’s brilliant to be here.
“It has been a packed few days, sorting things out. Now I’m just looking forward to training and playing.”
Stokes’ signing ends a three-way tug of war between Sunderland, Charlton and Celtic with all three clubs convinced at differing stages that they had clinched the signing of a player who has proved so prolific while in loan from Arsenal to Falkirk this season.
But Stokes and his father, who is also his agent, could not successfully conclude negotiations with Celtic – a club that Stokes supports fervently.
It is believed Celtic would not go above £10,000 a week in wages, while Charlton and Sunderland offered around £14,000.
And at that stage it looked as though Charlton would clinch the deal with Premiership football a more attractive option for the player who scored goals in 18 games for Falkirk in the Scottish Premier League.
Stokes even went so far as to say he was looking forward to the challenge of playing for Charlton, when Sunderland made their intervention over the weekend, inviting the player to Wearside for further talks.
That move proved crucial for the club was able to persuade the player not only of Sunderland’s promising future but also of the part he can play in it.
Boss Keane is delighted to have landed Stokes.
He said: “I’m delighted that Anthony has decided to join us. We’ve beaten off high-profile competition for someone who is a good young player and can hopefully help in our push for promotion.”
O’NEILL BACKS BARDSLEY TO SHINE AT VILLA:
ASTON VILLA manager Martin O’Neill has revealed the “hunger” of Phil Bardsley to make an impact in the Barclays Premiership after finding his path blocked at Manchester United by Gary Neville.
Right-back Bardsley has joined Villa on loan for the remainder of the season after the 21-year-old recently completed a temporary spell at Rangers.
He is expected to make his Villa debut in the home clash with Watford on January 20 although he will play for the reserves against Fulham tonight.
Bardsley, who was wanted by Sunderland boss Roy Keane, will be ineligible to face the Red Devils in this weekend’s league meeting at Old Trafford.
O’Neill, who wants to being in several more new faces during January, said: “I think Phil is very hungry to do well in the Premiership. He just wants that opportunity.
“Of course, at Manchester United there’s the small matter of trying to get past Gary Neville in that right-back position – one of the best players around in that role for many years.
“Phil has the opportunity now to come and fight for his place in the team.
“I think he is he’s prepared to do that. Nothing is cut and dried for him but he’s one of those who’s not had everything easy and he wants to battle.
“Anyone who’s had their football schooling at Manchester United possesses quality but it’s really his attitude that is absolutely top-class and is a big plus for us.
We’ve got a lot of important games coming up and he’s got from now until the end of May to try to prove himself.”
Bardsley said: “I’ve had glimpses of the Premier League at United but I want to be playing regularly.
“It’s quite frustrating when you’re in and out of the side so it’s great to have an opportunity to come to Villa and get a chance to play in the Premiership again.
“As every young lad will tell you, you just want to play football and I’m no different.
“It’s also great to have the chance to work with Martin O’Neill. His CV speaks for itself and it’s great to get this chance to work with him and his backroom staff. Hopefully I’ll grab the chance with both hands.
Bardsley’s arrival is likely to allow former Villa skipper Olof Mellberg to revet back to his preferred position at centre-back.