So, as we continue our team of One Good and One Bad (4-4-2 formation). Michael Conroy chose two left backs. Just confirm this is not a best and worst, it’s more of a one I liked, one who pissed me off!
We have been unusually blessed with decent full backs, so it has been incredibly difficult to pick both best and worst. The interchangeable Arca and Gray down the left-hand side would be stand out candidates. If he had gone on to achieve his undoubted promise, Anthony Smith would probably be on the list. Anton Rogan Josh was cultured; Martin Scott was reliable and brought an edge of sophistication to our defence and the only reason Alonso doesn't make the grade is because I'm furious we didn't sign him permanently. All things are relative to where you are and, truth be told, you cannot compare some of these players like for like so I have decided to go with a rags to riches story, a local lad done good. Richard Ord. Dickie Ord or Ritchie as his mum called him. As a centre half he was sometimes calamitous as he cut his teeth. A rare moment of insight from manager, Terry Butcher converted Ord from a centre half to full back; whether that was out of necessity or choice is an open question but regardless, Dicky Ord was a full back now. What a revelation it was. Who knew that gangly lad with impressively curtained hair had a bit of skill in his twinkly toes? Who knew that he had a thunderbolt of a shot on him that would seal a second half comeback against Grimsby from 2-0 down at home to 2-2. The fact that he would then go on to mix it with the best in the Premier League wasn't on our radar as the crowd threw limbs around. It's rare that a full back gets an original song about them, the fact that we were all chanting "Who needs Cantona, when we've got Dicky Ord?" ironically illustrates exactly how highly we regarded him. In his summers he played cricket for Murton; a lad so Sunderland that his farts smelled of pink slices. In amongst all of that adoration he never became a prima donna, he just got on with business. He's on my top five list of Sunderland players, just because when he took to the field it was one of those traditional stories; he was the kid from your school who made it. He was never going to leave. He returned to centre half ultimately and continued to impress, but eventually injuries got the better of him, even restricting him from appearing in his own testimonial. You could argue he wasn't really a left back, but my greatest memory of him is that 35-yard screamer against Grimsby while charging down the left side in front of the Clock Stand, so that's how I remember him. Our greatest left back.
Equally as difficult is selecting the worst left back. Seriously, have we had any that bad, really? Hardyman had his moments but then he booted the Newcastle keeper in the head in the play offs after his penalty was saved and he also scored against the newly announced million-pound keeper David James. Plus, he wasn't really all that bad. Reuben was hardly brilliant, but he had a great song, and a cracking tash and he was called Agboola. Plus, he seems a lovely bloke. I've had to settle on a player who disappointed me; a player who at first was incredible; an academy graduate who eventually broke through and looked, hands down, a star of the future. He was incisive, he could beat a player and he could fire some brilliant crosses in. He was quiet; getting on with the game, undeterred by his prospect, un-flattered by attention. As Sunderland faltered and were relegated the inevitable bids came in and Sunderland were in no position to turn them down. George McCartney moved to West Ham. I have absolutely no interest in whether he was good or bad for West Ham, because, let's face it, who cares about West Ham? When Keane brought him back, I was elated. We were bringing our quality left back home. Now I don't know if jellied eels affect your performance or if the smog of London bring a certain lethargy, but we certainly didn't get the player we had sent to them. McCartney seemed to have lost his gumption. It felt a little like he was accepting Sunderland as a climb down and his performances reflected that. George McCartney was excellent then he was off the boil; in some ways more disappointing than Rodwell's ineffectiveness because at least with Rodwell we were banking on rumour; with McCartney we had seen it, we had seen what he was capable of. It's perhaps harsh to pick him as our worst but in terms of shattering illusions George's return is right up there.
THE STORY SO FAR
Stay Safe, Haway the Lads