FOR ten of the Sunderland players that started Saturday’s FA Cup humbling to Mansfield Town, the game will quickly be forgotten. For Callum McFadzean, however, while the result might not have gone as planned, the occasion could still prove a landmark moment.

McFadzean’s first appearance in a Sunderland shirt finally drew a line under the most difficult six months of the 26-year-old’s career.

Having turned down the offer of a new deal at Plymouth Argyle, McFadzean found himself released as a free agent just as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic reached its peak.

For a while, it looked as though he might struggle to find new employers, but after a couple of months of having to train with some of his old mates in his hometown of Sheffield, Sunderland came to his rescue. On Saturday, a new chapter in his footballing story began.

“As soon as I knew there was interest from Sunderland, I knew that was the team I wanted to go to because of the team alone,” said McFadzean, whose energetic performance at left wing-back against Mansfield was arguably the only positive from an otherwise chastening afternoon. “But not only that, there was the squad and I knew if I came here, it would benefit me and take my career to the next level.

“I’m absolutely buzzing to be here and delighted to have made my debut. I wish we could have won, but personally I’m delighted to have put the shirt on and gone out there with the boys.”

Prior to Saturday, McFadzean’s last professional involvement had come in Plymouth’s 3-0 win over Macclesfield Town at the start of March, but the quality of his performance at the weekend proved his attempts to stay fit over the summer had been successful.

“Mentally, it was tough going out and doing stuff on my own,” he said. “But it helped a bit that I had mates from Sheffield who play football as well, so there was group stuff and things like that. I did a lot of running, and as much ball work as I could.”

McFadzean’s challenge now is to try and wrest a starting spot in the league from current first-choice Denver Hume. “I’m a team player,” he said. “And if it means sharing the minutes, then I’m more than happy to do that.”