My Favourite Sunderland XI

In this series, we ask fans to name their favourite eleven Sunderland players, they are not necessarily the best players…


During my time as a Sunderland fan we have been blessed with some very likeable goalkeepers. Lionel Perez, Mart Poom, Simon Mignolet, Vito Mannone and Jordan Pickford all came quickly to mind. Sorensen gets the edge though as our keeper through the high points of the Peter Reid era and has the very obvious advantage of having saved an Alan Shearer penalty in a derby win. How could you not love that?


My earliest memories as a Sunderland fan come from the 1994-95 season. Kubicki was an ever-present through those early years, moving to within one game of breaking the club’s post-war record for consecutive appearances when he was controversially dropped by Peter Reid in favour of Gareth Hall, which is the definition of adding insult to injury.


While Bould only managed one season at the club before injury ended his career, there was no doubt he made a huge impact on the team. A class act with title winning experience, he brought a touch of class to a team looking to establish themselves in the Premier League. Despite this his inclusion in my favourite team is more due to his response to a letter I once wrote to him asking for a signed photo. He took the time to answer the questions I asked him and just generally came across as a really top bloke.


It would be the understatement of the decade to say that the last few years have not been the most fun ones to be a Sunderland fan. It’s a shame that period has coincided with the Sunderland career of John O’Shea because in a better side he could have become a much more significant footballer in the club’s history. An outstanding professional who was crucial in our great escape seasons. It seems a shame that he has been released from the club, but will be fondly remembered by the majority of fans where others, Fabio I’m looking at you, have well and truly spent any remaining goodwill.


Alonso may only have played 20 games for Sunderland in a half season on loan from Fiorentina, but he made a big impact on both the team and the fans. Sadly, the move wasn’t made permanent, a decision made to look all the more ridiculous given his importance in Chelsea’s cruise to the Premier League title last season. Still we will always have that half season, that included a trip to Wembley, a hammering of Newcastle and the best of our great escapes, all of which Alonso was crucial in.


Injuries in his first season in the Premier League unfortunately meant that Sunderland only briefly saw the best of Carlos Edwards. Before that though he was one of the most exciting players to pull on the red and white in my time as a fan. Great pace, skill on the ball and a penchant for drilling the ball into the top corner from 25 yards. Edwards was a game changer and Sunderland have had a limited number of those over recent years.


Around the time I wrote to Steve Bould, I also wrote to Stefan Schwarz. What came back was a badly scanned photo, on an unevenly cut out piece of card with his signature on and from that moment I have always had a great fondness for the man. It also helped that Schwarz was a fine footballer with experience at some of the best clubs in Europe and a tidy ability on the ball.


How could you not pick Mr Sunderland in your favourite XI? It’s a great shame that Ball hasn’t been given a more important coaching role at the club, as you feel his obvious love forSAFC and common-sense attitude could only benefit us. On the field people will inevitably focus on his passion, and rightly so, but he was also a very fine footballer who performed consistently and with great skill in both the Championship and the Premier League.


In my very early days as a Sunderland fan, Martin Smith was my favourite player. Hugely skilful, he managed to break into the England Under-21 set-up in the mid-90s. Unfortunately, despite making over one hundred appearances for the club he was never really able to establish himself and spent the rest of his career moving around the lower leagues. For a while though Smith was exactly the sort of player fans like me love, home grown with an obvious passion for the club and the ability to unlock a defence.


Like Kevin Ball, it’s difficult to imagine too many fans not including Niall in their starting line-up. Not only was he a wonderful footballer during the club’s most successful recent period, but he would go on to become synonymous with the club. It’s hard to imagine that there has ever been another footballer who has played up front, in goal, managed and been chairman of the same team. Not only that, but he set the precedent for footballers’ donating money earnt in their testimonial matches to charity, presumably irritating some of the greedier members of the profession in the process. I almost met him once when I came out of the club shop and he walked across in front of me when he was chairman, but instead of saying hi, I just stared at him in genuine awe. A proper hero.


Well you can’t have one without the other, can you? Super Kev was quite simply incredible. From fans of other clubs, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but it’s worth remembering that he scored 30 goals, a target rarely reached in the Premier League these days for a newly promoted club. Not only that, but he scored all sorts of goals. Tap-ins, headers, runs from outside the box, not to mention long range strikes like the one he bagged against Chelsea, that still makes me want to punch the air every time I see it. He should have played for England more than he did, which again shows how he was under-appreciated outside Sunderland, but boy did we understand exactly how good he was.

Subs Bench: Simon Mignolet, Richard Ord, Michael Gray, Nicky Summerbee, Claudio Reyna, Craig Russell, Michael Bridges