When Gillingham signed John Egan following his Sunderland release in 2014, few would have predicted that the centre-back would go on to be a regular in the Premier League and for his country.
After failing to make a single appearance for Sunderland’s first team during his time at the Stadium of Light, the Republic of Ireland centre-back was released from his contract eight years ago, making the move to the Gills in League One.
There, he would become an instant hit, scoring 11 goals in just 92 appearances for the Essex club before his move to Brentford in 2017, where he continued to shine in the Championship, scoring seven goals in 71 appearances for the Bees.
Sheffield United then paid £4m to sign him in 2018, breaking their club-record transfer fee in order to do so, and with Sunderland having just been relegated from the Championship to League One that year, the Black Cats may have been beginning to seriously regret their mistake.
Egan has become a fans favourite with Sheffield United, making 179 appearances for the Blades in his four years at Brammall Lane, including 67 appearances in the top flight.
He looks set to be a key part of Paul Heckingbottom’s side this season as they look to win promotion back to the Premier League, and has starred in his 12 appearances thus far, averaging a strong 6.99 rating from WhoScored for his performances.
Unsurprisingly, the centre-back attracted Premier League interest during the summer, with West Ham told to pay £12m for his services, but he remained with the Blades as they currently top the second tier.
Egan is also a regular with the Republic of Ireland, having earned 26 caps for his country, and manager Stephen Kenny was full of praise for him after he kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet in a 0-0 draw against Portugal only last year
He said: “In my opinion, I think John Egan could play in the Champions League.”
Therefore, considering Egan’s meteoric rise since leaving the Stadium of Light, Sunderland definitely made a big mistake in never giving him a chance in the first team when he was younger.