David Healy becoming the forgotten man of British football
It would be remiss of me, before starting this article, not to congratulate Northern Ireland. Friday’s result was a fantastic draw against the Italians, particularly after a stunning win in Slovenia.
This was a starting line up that contained Warren Feeney of Oldham Athletic, and Grant McCann of Peterborough United.
It was also a starting side that contained David Healy.
Now I would consider myself to be something of a football obsessive. When I saw the Northern Ireland team I realised that I had no idea who Healy was contracted to. Ipswich? Leeds? Fulham?
He is actually still at Sunderland. Never has the term Premier League footballer been less appropriate. Since joining the Black Cats in August 2008, he has made only 13 Premier League appearances. He has one Premier League goal.
Digging even deeper, the problem is worse. Outside of the Carling Cup, Healy has scored eight goals in 72 games for club and country, including one in his last 10 for Northern Ireland.
But it wasn’t always this way. The 2006/7 season was a golden season for Healy, and he made himself one of the genuine greats of Northern Irish football.
In 13 games between August 2006 and November 2007, Healy scored 14 goals, including a hat-trick in a 3-2 win against Spain.
He was the top scorer in Euro 2008 qualifying, scoring three goals more than any other player. This was in a group that contained Spain, Denmark and Sweden.
So the question remains: what has happened to Healy? Where has the spark gone that prompted four separate clubs to spend over £1 million on him?
Well quite frankly, he has allowed himself to become stagnated at the Stadium of Light. To remain at the club at which he has not started a single league game is criminal.
That situation is not likely to change with Bent, Welbeck, Gyan and Campbell ahead of him in the pecking order.
Why Healy did not leave in the summer is unclear. Sunderland would seemingly be happy for him to be off the wage bill, and many Championship clubs would fancy a go at revitalising him. I truly fancied that a Leeds, a Hull or even Preston would consider a purchase.
It is difficult to see when or if this spiral of decline. Without a chance at Sunderland, Healy will play at most five games a season, making it impossible for him to regain the knack for scoring goals. It may well be that he has to drop into the lower reaches of the Championship, simply to find the feeling.
If he doesn’t, and doesn’t soon, then a 31-year-old’s career may be grinding to a halt. That would be a hell of a fall from grace for an MBE.