U's cash in as Greg joins the Black Cats
GREG Halford will never forget the year 2007, and we're not even halfway through it!Having begun the year at Colchester United, where he had emerged from the youth team three seasons previously, he is now poised to play for the second Premiership club of his already short career.
By Carl Marston
GREG Halford will never forget the year 2007, and we're not even halfway through it!
Having begun the year at Colchester United, where he had emerged from the youth team three seasons previously, he is now poised to play for the second Premiership club of his already short career.
The U's fended off a flurry of offers for their star man, including interest from Manchester United and firm bids from Tottenham and Sheffield United, before eventually allowing Halford to leave for a club record fee of £2.5m to Reading during the January transfer window.
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The message at the time was that Halford, an England under-20 international, was a player-of-the-future in the eyes of Royals boss Steve Coppell.
But after less then five months at the Madejski Stadium, and more to the point just three senior appearances, Halford yesterday completed a surprise move to Premiership newcomers Sunderland for a £3m package.
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The U's will receive a financial windfall for Halford's latest switch, due to a sell-on clause in his original sale to Reading.
So it seems to be good business all round, certainly for Halford himself, who has signed a lucrative four-year deal after passing a medical on Wearside yesterday morning.
Halford enthused: “It's great to be here. The set-up at Sunderland is phenomenal and I cannot wait to get going. I have had a taste of the Premiership with Reading, and I want more.”
Sunderland boss Roy Keane, who guided the Black Cats to the Championship title last term, was hoping to land the 6ft 4ins ultility player last January, only to be knocked back by the U's. Reading won the chase instead.
Keane said: “I am delighted Greg has decided to join us. Hopefully he will play a big part in what we hope will be a successful few years for the club.”
Chelmsford-born Halford found it difficult to establish himself in the Reading first-team, not least because club skipper Graeme Murty was the first choice right-back - Halford had spent the first half of last season as the U's regular right-back, although he can also operate as a midfielder, wide man or striker.
Furthermore, the Royals yesterday handed Ecuador defender Ulises de la Cruz, also a right-back, a new 12-month deal.
Reading Director of Football, Nicky Hammond, implied that Halford had found it difficult to negotiate the big step up from Layer Road to the top flight.
“It's fair to say that Greg did not make the impact here that both he and ourselves would have liked,” said Hammond.
“Sometimes in football, players do move on quickly if it's felt that the fit isn't quite right. But this is absolutely no reflection on Greg as a person or as a player. He has been a very good professional during his short time with us.
“From a purely financial perspective, this is an excellent deal for us with a good upside on our initial investment in January,” added Hammond.
Halford started just two games in the Premiership, against Tottenham and Watford, as well as making his debut as a substitute against Portsmouth. He will be hoping for a more fruitful stay at Sunderland.
Keane has been linked with a bewildering list of players since his side won promotion. Chairman Niall Quinn's Drumaville consortium have provided him with around £25m to build a squad capable not only of surviving in the top flight, but of making an impact.
The likes of Diego Forlan, Jussi Jaaskelainen, Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and David Nugent have all been the subject of speculation, and while the manager may have bigger-name targets than Halford, he will be delighted to have made a breakthrough at last.
With Stephen Wright injured for much of last season, and Nyron Nosworthy having been successfully converted into a central defender, the right-back position was a problem at times for Keane - prior to the arrival of on-loan Manchester United player Danny Simpson, who has now returned to Old Trafford.
Halford was the darling of Layer Road, making 163 appearances and helping to guide the U's into the Championship. But that already seems a very long time ago!