Seventy3 Magazine columnist Micky Gray is one of only a handful of players to have pulled on the colours of both Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers, his name sitting alongside fellow former red and white stars Dwight Yorke, Steve Agnew and Kevin Arnott amongst others.
Gray, who captained home town club Sunderland during his 12 years at Roker Park and the Stadium of Light, was allowed to join Blackburn on a free transfer in January 2004 following relegation from the Premier League and helped Rovers qualify for European football in the UEFA Cup during a three-year spell at Ewood Park.
Dominic Matteo played at the heart of that same Blackburn defence as Gray, and the Scottish international counts as a connection between the two clubs thanks to his solitary game on loan at Sunderland from Liverpool in 1995. That was a game which the club were fined over due to the fact they forgot to register Matteo with the Football League!
Jon Stead, the striker who had promised so much as a teenager at Huddersfield, was part of the same Blackburn squad although he never managed to find the same scoring exploits during two seasons with Rovers. His goalscoring exploits at Sunderland, who he joined ahead of the infamous 15-point season in 2005, was even worse as he found the net just two times in 35 appearances before departing in 2007. His first goal in a red and white shirt came in the April and helped earn a rare point – but significantly was his first in 11 months.
Two players who would later join Sunderland – Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke – starred in attack for Blackburn in the seasons before Gray and Matteo arrived. The ex-Manchester United strike force both left Lancashire in 2004 and had spells at the Stadium of Light towards the end of their careers during the Roy Keane era.
Another face to pull on the blue and white of Blackburn prior to joining Sunderland was midfielder Jason McAteer, who spent two seasons at Ewood Park between 1999 and 2001 before completing a £1million move. He endured a rollercoaster time at the Stadium of Light which included relegation from the Premier League, play-off semi-final agony and dismissal in the FA Cup semi-final with Millwall.
Further back in time, bald midfielder Steve Agnew enjoyed three seasons at Sunderland under Peter Reid from 1995 to 1998, a spell he earned a Championship winners’ medal and spent a season in the Premier League. He had earlier – when presumably sporting a few more strands of hair – played twice for Blackburn during two years in Lancashire.
Howard Gayle, the striker who led the line in the 1985 Milk Cup Final defeat to during the first of two seasons with Sunderland, had a long spell at Blackburn from 1987 to 1992, while the talented Kevin Arnott had two loan spells at Ewood Park later in his career having emerged through the youth ranks with Gary Rowell and Shaun Elliott.
Pascal Chimbonda and El Hadji Diouf’s Sunderland careers lasted no more than half-a-season as Roy Keane offloaded the troubled pair at the first opportunity upon the opening of the January transfer window in 2009 and both then spent two seasons with Blackwood. Benjani, meanwhile, was a team-mate at Ewood Park after having a brief loan spell on Wearside.