Here I’ve listed my favourite players to wear each SAFC squad number (1-30). To be fair I didn’t realise that some numbers had only be used by some pretty crap players, so bear with me…
1: Costel Pantilimon. Perhaps an unusual choice between the sticks, the Romanian spent 18 months on Wearside after a stint at Man City to challenge Vito Mannone for the starting position. He was bloody massive at 6 8 and Pants became first choice after two poor displays from Mannone against Southampton (8-0) and Arsenal (2-0). He impressed throughout the rest of the season and I always had a soft spot for him.
2: Phil Bardsley. Bardsley was everything you’d want from a right back, he had pace, power and passion for the club. He will be remembered by Sunderland fans for scoring that goal that effectively sent us the Capital One Cup final. The ex-Manchester United man left everything on the pitch every time he played and was tough in the tackle.
3: Patrick Van Aanholt. We've has a few talented number 3s recently, but PVA was one of the best in my opinion. He was always an attacking threat, and an outlet out wide. Granted, he wasn’t a good defender and got caught out of position loads, but his recovery pace allowed him to make up for poor positioning.
4: Ki Sung Yueng. The Korean midfielder was instrumental in our cup run- controlling the tempo of games and of course scoring the extra time goal vs Chelsea. Ki also scored one of the two penalties in the shootout against Manchester United. He’s now playing up the road, but he’ll be remembered for his role in the cup run and great escape.
5: Wes Brown. In the latter end of his Sunderland spell, the ex-Manchester United veteran came under a lot of criticism and his fitness was rightly questioned towards the end of his Sunderland stint and career. However, his commitment could never be questioned as despite his age he was one of the most consistent players over a few years.
6: Lee Cattermole. Catts is the longest-serving player at the club and perhaps it is now time for him to move on. Through the darkest time in the club’s history, Lee Barry has shown excellent leadership qualities. He’s stayed when he could have left whilst playing his best football under Poyet, and for that commitment he makes it onto the list.
7: Seb Larsson. One of the first players’ names I got on the back of a shirt. Seb can look back fondly on his time at Sunderland, although it may have been for the best if he’d perhaps left a year earlier than he did. He was a great servant to the club, wearing the captain’s armband on a number of occasions. The Swede’s set piece ability was unrivalled and they earned a number of last-gasp points over the years; particularly the free kick against Blackburn in a 2-1 victory.
8: Craig Gardner. I know Gardner got caught in possession a lot, but the way he struck a ball was incredible. He scored loads of screamers, including the beauty against Swansea. Personally, I thought he was great at right back, he comes in for a lot more stick than he deserves. Plus, he hates the Mags!
9: Steven Fletcher: There haven’t really been any great number 9s at Sunderland recently. Fletcher was a clinical finisher and scored plenty of goals, particularly in his first season. He went on a fantastic streak when he first signed but was plagued with injury and his form inevitably tailed off before leaving on a free.
10: Connor Wickham. Another number that hasn’t seen much success in recent years, Connor Wickham was the talisman at the end of our great escape season, playing a crucial role in games against Cardiff, Man United and Man City especially.
11: Darren Bent. The striker scored 32 goals in all competitions for Sunderland before greedily leaving for Villa. However, Bent is in this list for his quality rather than his attitude though; not many players have had the same impact as him since he left.
12: Nyron Nosworthy. Nyron became a massive cult hero at Sunderland. He loved Sunderland, and Sunderland loved him. I’m sure there aren’t many people who wouldn’t include Nyron in this list.
13: Jordan Pickford. Our homegrown keeper is one of the few players who can hold their heads high after our relegation from the Premier League. He was excellent, and also performed heroics in a penalty shootout for England.
14: Duncan Watmore. Our roadrunner showed his potential under Allardyce and even Moyes to an extent, linking up with Defoe and Anichebe. His progress has been halted after a couple of major injuries and so the jury is still out on him.
15: Younès Kaboul. The Frenchman was solid as a rock under Big Sam and formed a formidable partnership at the back with Lamine Kone. He often went on marauding runs into the opposition half, as shown in his assist to Steven Fletcher against them up the road. His departure coincided with the team crumbling, further emphasising how crucial he was to the team.
16: John O’Shea. The Irishman was our captain for a long time; a leader on and off the pitch and even won player of the season in our Championship relegation year. He brought his solid partnership with Wes Brown over from Man United and the pair were pretty good, fully embracing the club. He was alleged to have been part of a supposed rotten core but if anything, I think he was one of the few that did good by the club, rather than being a mercenary. Shame we got him in his latter playing days…
17: Ji Dong Won. Ji was utterly terrible for the majority of his career at Sunderland but produced one moment of magic that made up for everything. He rounded Joe Hart in the final seconds of the New Year’s Day fixture against Man City before slotting into the empty net. It was a great goal and brought a great piece of commentary from Martin Tyler.
18: Jermaine Defoe. Defoe isn’t just respected as a player, but also as a person. He just “got” Sunderland. Whether it was crying at half time against Newcastle, or forming a beautiful friendship with Bradley Lowery, you couldn’t help but love the man. Sunderland well and truly got under Jermaine’s skin and I’m sure he’d come back in a heartbeat.
19: Aiden McGeady. Our best player last year, McGeady has the ability to change the game on its head with the click of his boots. His agility and quick feet are mesmerising, torturing League One fullbacks.
20: Josh Maja. In Maja’s breakthrough season, the striker was amazing until his departure. He just knew where the back of the net was and could score from seemingly anywhere. If he hadn’t left in January I’m sure we’d have been promoted and ironically he still finished the season as our top scorer despite leaving half way through.
21: Yann Mvilla. Yann, like Kaboul, was brilliant under Allardyce. The loannee obviously loved the club, hence he sat in the airport begging the club to sign him. Unbelievably, we decided that rather than Mvilla we’d splash £13 million on Didier Ndong. What a crime.
22: Wahbi Khazri. The Tunisian magician was fantastic in the half-season played under Allardyce, scoring vital goals against Man United and Chelsea. He was bizarrely dropped for ages under Moyes for an apparent attitude problem. He reminded everyone of his quality when he finally started a game and scored directly from a corner.
23: Lamine Kone. Certainly, a controversial pick following his recent antics, Kone was a hero on Wearside in his first half-season under Big Sam, notice a pattern? He was then linked with Everton for the tune of around £18 million. At the time Moyes was praised for showing some backbone and not selling, but in hindsight we should have snapped their hand off for a lazy player with a big attitude problem.
24: DeAndre Yedlin. Another number that hasn’t had many great players, Yedlin wasn’t great, but I was struggling to find anyone else! He was fast though, which made the fullback a problem for the opposition. Newcastle are now seeing his deficiencies and was their weak link at the back all of last season.
25: Vito Mannone. Vito will always be remembered for his penalty save to send us to Wembley, but he was much more than that. He played out of his skin in our great escape season, earning player of the season. Mannone always had a mistake in him though, and eventually was dropped the next season for Costel Pantilimon.
26: George Honeyman. Wearing the number 26 in our Championship season, George shone through our relegation and was our joint-second top scorer with seven in all competitions. He showed a commitment that not many did and was one of the few players that weren’t completely detrimental to the cause.
27: Jan Kirchoff. The classiest and most composed player that I’ve seen playing for Sunderland. The towering German was a joy to watch but it’s such a shame he couldn’t be relied upon to stay fit. He broke up play excellently as midfielders around him did all the heavy running; he would shield the defence brilliantly.
28: Marcos Alonso. The Spaniard had a short but very sweet spell on loan at Sunderland. He had a massive impact in our great escape and of course scored one of the few penalties in the shootout against Man United. Always destined for bigger things…
29: Joel Asoro. The Sweden under 21 international’s pace was electric and he linked up with Josh Maja well. Asoro is now a benchwarmer at Swansea, proving that the grass isn't always greener.
30: Jimmy Dunne. Dunne was far from the worst defender during his loan spell at Sunderland and was unfortunate to not have been afforded more of a chance towards the end.