Danny Graham didn’t set the world alight during his time with Sunderland

Comical own goals, missed sitters, shocking goals per game ratios, 8-0 thrashings, no win at home for almost a full calendar year, it goes without saying that The Black Cats have never made things easy for themselves, and this has continued with their bizarre transfer policy.

Sunderland have traditionally made promising signings, thrown away ridiculous money on wages, and paid over the odds for average players.

With Sunderland currently sitting 23rd in the Championship and looking set to lose their leading scorer in January, the lack of money to spend is cause for concern in order to rectify mistakes from previous transfer windows.

Here at SportsByte we look back at some of Sunderland’s top five biggest flops in the last 10 years:

5 – Danny Graham – from Swansea – £5m

This one was probably enough to make mascots Samson and Delilah scratch their heads. When Danny Graham signed for Sunderland, it was matched with huge controversy.

A proud Newcastle United fan wearing the red and white jersey, it didn’t make sense at the time. Graham signed for The Black Cats from Swansea in January 2013, and warmed to by the Sunderland fans after he was seen celebrating with the Wearside faithful following their 3-0 derby victory at St James’ Park.

The Gateshead born striker, however, never really got into goalscoring form with Sunderland and with a return of just one goal in 37 appearances Graham was never going to last.


4 – Andrea Dossena – from Napoli – free transfer

Despite being a free transfer, Sunderland will still have felt ripped off with this one. With vast experience playing for the likes of Udinese and Liverpool, the Black Cats management felt that Dossena would be the solid full-back that they desperately craved.

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Dossena made only seven appearances, with his debut coming in a 2-1 victory against rivals Newcastle in 2013, which saw the Italian produce an impressive display.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Dossena got  a straight red card against Hull at the KC Stadium, which was a crucial game at the bottom of the table.

Dossena had peeked, and to nobody’s surprise, left the club at the end of the season to sign for Leyton Orient.  Sunderland then went on to sign Marcos Alonso, which wasn’t exactly a bad replacement.


3 – Paul McShane – from West Brom – £1.5m

A Roy Keane signing who had so much potential. Like Dossena, McShane also got off to a flying start in Sunderland colours, but this was swiftly followed by a run of shocking performances.

After a solid showing in a 1-0 home win against Tottenham, McShane’s form got worse and he just couldn’t get out of his slump.

This was topped off when Sunderland lost 7-1 defeat against Everton in 2007, where McShane was booked and directly responsible for three of the goals that were conceded.

He went on to make 24 appearances for the club, before leaving for Hull on loan in the 2008/09 season, then going on to sign permanently the season after.


2 – Jozy Altidore – from AZ Alkmaar – undisclosed fee

How long have you got?

Altidore was added to manager Paolo Di Canio’s ranks in July 2013 after his successful spell with AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie.

What was to followed was a string of poor performances. Altidore, who is a striker, scored a measly one goal in 42 appearances.

The only noticeable performances Altidore had was when he scored his one and only goal against Chelsea in a 4-3 defeat, and a man of the match showing against Newcastle.

To make matters worse, ex director of football Roberto De Fanti went on to confirm that Altidore signed after the club has missed out on Belgian star Romelu Lukaku.

There was never doubting Altidore’s effort, but a simply shocking return of goals saw him depart in a swap deal with Toronto in 2015 in exchange for Jermain Defoe. The rest is history.


1 – Ricky Alvarez – from Inter Milan – £9m

The transfer of Ricky Alvarez perfectly sums up the mess that has gone on behind the scenes at Sunderland in recent years.

The Argentine signed for the Black Cats on deadline day in September 2014 on a season long-loan. If Sunderland managed to stay up that season, they had an obligation to sign Alvarez permanently.

Of course, Sunderland went on to beat the drop, with Alvarez failing to make any sort of impact on Wearside, making just 13 appearances and only finding the net once in an FA Cup replay against Fulham.

With survival, came the obligation that Sunderland then had to buy Alvarez for the initial fee agreed, but they unsurprsingly didn’t want to sign him, and refused to pay the fee.

In 2017, a court hearing ruled that Sunderland had to pay the transfer fee for Alvarez, after an appeal by the club had been rejected. Sunderland ended up paying £9m for someone that played 13 times.