The odd tale of Rade Prica, Sunderland’s most bizarre “one hit wonder”

SUNDERLAND, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 29: Rade Prica of Sunderland in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Birmingham at the Stadium of Light on January 29, 2008 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

15 years ago this month Sunderland were battling it out in the Premiership for survival under Roy Keane. The season proved to be a positive for SAFC, but it wasn’t easy, and on that January there was a push to bring in a new goalscorer to bolster the team’s offensive power.

It is well known that Keane was struggling to get proven quality players to come to Sunderland. It was widely perceived that there was a bias against the area because it was so far away from London, and he famously berated the girlfriends of footballers as being the problem.

To make matters worse, Keane had found himself having to pay over the odds for players in English leagues. Few can forget the fact that he paid £5 million for Michael Chopra and £6 million for Kenwyne Jones to a name a few. This form of spending wasn’t sustainable.

This led SAFC to look elsewhere, and it seemed they had found their answer when they spotted a promising Swedish footballer playing in the Danish league, who had been scoring goals prolifically. Rade Prica, then 28 years old, had a decisive 1 in 2 record for AaB. Why not take a chance on him?

So they did. That January Rade Prica joined Sunderland for £2 million, a deal which seemed like a steal at the time, and of course he was never going to turn down the opportunity to play in the Premier League. He was a low risk supplementary striker, a good squad booster.

And did he hit the ground running! Prica scored on his debut in a 2-0 win against Birmingham city on January 29th, 2008. But not only that, he technically scored twice only for the second goal to be ruled out as a handball. It seemed Prica had gained cult status on Wearside almost instantly, what a sensational signing he was.

And then… It all fell apart. Prica was never able to replicate his first performance and worse still, seemed incapable of keeping up with the flow of a Premier League game. He featured just five more times for the lads, and in a 3-0 defeat against Liverpool was infamously substituted despite having himself been brought on as a substitute.

Prica never featured for Sunderland again. Stuck on the club’s payroll for a year, Prica was shipped out the following January to Norwegian club Rosenberg, where oddly enough he returned to the prolific scoring form he had in Denmark, scoring 57 goals in 104 games.

Thank you Rade, for the memory and for that single goal! Those three points kept us up in the end.

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