Here I will be naming my all-time Sunderland XI consisting of players who have stood out to me in my years of being a Sunderland fan. Although some of these may have not been the most technically gifted, they all brought something to the team which made them stand out. Also, bear in mind that I’m just a nipper, so this is based on players I have watched in red and white, so don’t moan about the lack of Quinn, Phillips and Marco…
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford
He’s one of our own. Graduating from the club’s academy and putting in some impressive performances in his debut season with the club, he earned a move to Everton in 2017 for a British record fee for a goalkeeper. He has impeccable distribution and Pickford now looks set to be Gareth Southgate’s number one at the World Cup.
Right-Back: Phil Bardsley
We haven’t been blessed with the greatest full backs in my time, but Bardo is one of the best. A tireless worker who would give everything for the team, he eventually moved on to Stoke after six years with the club. He will be remembered for his rocket (!) against Manchester United in the semi-final of the League Cup.
Centre-Back: John O’Shea (Captain)
I was happy when I heard O’Shea was coming to Sunderland. A player with experience and who has won almost everything in the game. Although his best years may have been behind him, he was a real leader and role model for the other players. He managed over 200 appearances for Sunderland, before recently moving to Reading on a free.
Centre-Back: Lamine Kone
A controversial choice and there are others who could have taken this spot. But when on form, Kone is a solid top-flight defender. He came in one January and basically saved us from relegation. His two goals against Everton to send the Mags down is a personal highlight for me. Obviously, we have dropped down to League One and he wants out of the club, which is to be expected.
Left-Back: Danny Rose
Danny Rose was only on loan at Sunderland for a season in 2012/13 and I really hoped we would sign him permanently after that. He has gone on to establish himself in the first team at Spurs and is in the England squad for the World Cup. Danny, Danny Roooose.
Right-Midfield: Sebastian Larsson
The Swede came to the club in 2011 and spent six seasons here. A set-piece specialist, he was the club’s free-kick taker for years and stuck a few in the back of the net. He always gave everything for the team despite his lack of pace and it was a shame to see him leave, we should have offered him a new contract.
Centre-Midfield: Jordan Henderson
Another product of the Sunderland academy, Jordan Henderson broke into the first team at just 19, and although he started out on the right wing, he was called into centre midfield and relished there. He earned himself a £20 million transfer to Liverpool in 2011 and captained them in the 2018 Champions League final. He is in the squad for the World Cup.
Centre-Midfield: Lee Cattermole
Passion, determination and a pair of balls is vital in any team. Lee Cattermole has been that man for us for several years now. Never afraid to shy away from a tackle, he is known for giving everything on the pitch and letting the opposition know he is there. He signed in 2009 and has made over 200 appearances for Sunderland, captaining the side on many occasions.
Left-Midfield: Stephane Sessegnon
God took Messi and Pele, mixed the two to make one! Sessegnon was one of the most gifted and exciting players to come to Sunderland in recent years. Small, agile and good on the ball, he brought a sense of excitement and creativity to the club. He is up there with my favourite Sunderland players, I had Sessegnon 28 on the back of my shirt when I was at school. The sale of him to West Brom is one of the worst pieces of business I’ve seen at the club.
Striker: Jermaine Defoe
There isn’t much else to say about this man apart from he is a legend. Defoe arrived at the club in 2015 and it was made even sweeter with Jozy Altidore going in the opposite direction. He made an instant connection with fans and his volley against Newcastle is one of the best goals I have seen at the Stadium of Light. His friendship with Bradley Lowery and charity work emphasised how genuine the guy is, and he was recently awarded an OBE for his charity work. He will always be loved by Sunderland fans.
Striker: Darren Bent
Another controversial choice, but you cannot deny that when he was at the club, he was dangerous. A striker who can score consistently is what we have seemed to lack over the years. 32 goals in 58 appearances for the club earned him a move to Aston Villa, and a place in the bad books of Sunderland fans. But if you pretend that never happened, he really was one of our best strikers for some time and who can forget the famous beachball goal, amazing.
So that was my all time, favourite Sunderland XI. A hardworking side, with quality in attack. Something which I hope will return to Sunderland this season.