Having prominently assisted Sunderland’s ascent, it was only fitting that Evans – struggling to dislodge Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand from the United backline – would return in January 2008 to fight instant demotion. Keane’s side had mustered four victories from 21 league outings, but garnered six wins from Evans’ 15 appearances to ensure safety with two games to spare. The Irishman’s successor, Bruce, signed Fraizer Campbell on a permanent basis in the summer of 2009, then returned to snare Welbeck for the duration of the 2010/11 campaign.
Whereas Evans arrived at the Stadium of Light without a taste of senior domestic football, Welbeck had a comparative bounty: 24 appearances and five goals spread across all three domestic competitions and the Champions League.
“When Danny came to Sunderland, he knew – just as we did - that he was going to get to the top, just because of the way he was,” says Clegg. “He was very enthusiastic. You'd want 11 Danny Welbecks knocking around the place because of what he brought, especially with his personality. He's a really happy lad, somebody you want to have around.”
For all Welbeck’s infectious enthusiasm, his start to life at the Stadium of Light was hindered by a troublesome knee injury. While Evans’ influence had been instant, Welbeck took time to make waves on Wearside. Although the Longsight striker’s development as a player unfolded for the world to see, just as glaring was his physical evolution. A leggy colt when he left Old Trafford, Welbeck was on the road to becoming a thoroughbred athlete by the time of his return. Harder, fitter, faster, stronger.
“That comes naturally with playing games,” says Clegg. “I think it's a case of getting the right balance of regularly playing games at a high level, preparing your body with core work, gym work, strength work and the right regeneration, and then you've got to get your body ready for the next game. When you do that it makes you become a man. At reserve team level you're not sure if you're playing or not - and if you do then it's usually against kids and