Crystal Palace’s new left-back, Patrick van Aanholt, made his Sunderland debut in a draw at the Hawthorns on August 16, 2014.
He was badly at fault for West Bromwich Albion’s second goal; allowing Saido Berahino to amble in behind him at the back post for a tap-in.
He then made a superb run and a perfect pass for Seb Larsson’s equaliser.
In one game he had summed himself up as a footballer. We were left to reflect: “If he can just eradicate the daft errors...”
Twenty-nine months later we retained the same thought.
His final Sunderland game was also at the Hawthorns, when he stood two yards from Darren Fletcher, allowing the midfielder to turn and casually batter in the opening goal.
General opinion is one of a defender who can’t defend.
This is a little harsh. Van Aanholt could tackle, mark, head and make himself available to fellow defenders.
What he was incapable of was concentrating; thereby sabotaging his ability to tackle, mark, head and make himself available to fellow defenders.
Full-backs today must be able to attack, but on occasions too numerous for comfort, it slipped van Aanholt’s mind that the main priority of a defender is to defend. There’s a clue in the job title. However, this isn’t Sunderland’s problem any more.
I shall confess to quite liking van Aanholt.
He is a naturally talented and exciting player and just about provided more fun than despair during his time on Wearside.
But there is seldom any advantage to keeping a player who wishes to leave, so off he goes.
Although I can’t see why he would go to Palace now, rather than hedge his bets until May.
Sunderland appear to have done something they rarely do. Good business.
A player considered to be something between a luxury and an outright liability, was bought for £1.5m and sold for up to £14m.
The potential pitfall is that the club has given direct rivals the player they wanted, albeit for a price. But if Bryan Oviedo proves himself then it looks like better business still.
For a man who is 27 this month Oviedo has very little first team experience. But an inability to dislodge Leighton Baines from Everton’s starting line-up does not necessarily indicate a bad player.
Hopefully he will begin to prove his worth at Selhurst Park on Saturday when, it should be remembered, there will be considerably more pressure on van Aanholt than Oviedo; as is the case for their respective new clubs.
But back to van Aanholt’s move. I would like to be able to wish him good luck in his new endeavours. Regrettably a glimpse of the league table means that I couldn’t do this with anything like sincerity.