My Favourite SAFC XI

July 8, 2019

Goalkeeper: Jimmy Montgomery

Being a young supporter, I wasn’t around when Jim played for the lads, but he was always a player that was idolised. He featured 537 times for his hometown club, becoming our record appearance maker and even for the younger generation, he will be known for “that” save against Leeds in the 1973 FA Cup Final. Even though I never watched him growing up, I was always told by my old man about this magnificent goalkeeper and it was only after I saw this miraculous save was when I realised what he achieved for his home-town club.

 

Right Back: Phil Bardsley

There wasn’t much choice for this position, but that does not dim the light that shines on this Scottish defender. Now 34, Phil spent seven years at the club and in his time made the right back position his own. He was a hard working, honest player who never shied away from a challenge. He wasn’t the most skilful player but like many who played for the lads, you could guarantee that he would always give his all and walk off the pitch knowing he’d put in a shift.

 

Centre Back: John O’Shea

The Irish defender, who started his career at Manchester United, joined the lads in 2011 alongside his partner in crime, Wes Brown and went on to make 226 appearances for Sunderland with most of them coming in the Prem. By far the most decorated player to ever put in the red and white shirt, John has a drawer full of Premier League winner’s medals and a Champion’s League winner’s medal to go with them. John wasn’t always the fastest player on the pitch but what he made up for that with his leadership qualities and experience. JOS also played 118 times for his country in a playing career spanning 20 years.

 

Centre Back: Kevin Ball

Another Sunderland legend and now club ambassador. Ball was a tough tackling defender who was at the club for nine years. Bally was club captain and was named the player of the year twice, in 1990-91 and 1996-97. As well as playing for the lads, he worked at the academy and has had two stints as caretaker boss in 2006 and 2013. By far the hardest player in the list so far, Kevin was originally a centre half, so I’ve slotted him in there to give us some steel at the back…

 

Left Back: Danny Rose

This was a difficult position to choose. Danny was only a youngster when he joined Sunderland, on loan from Spurs and his time at the SOL was decent to say the least. He showed glimpses of what he could soon be during his time with the lads, an attacking defender who had a deadly cross on him. When he left SAFC, he slotted straight into the Tottenham team and has been a good fit for the squad ever since. Always a reliable full back, Rose also left his mark on the England squad playing in the 2016 Euros.

 

Centre Midfield: Lee Cattermole

A personal choice this one, Lee was a passionate, hard working midfielder who had a 10-year career with SAFC. Always renowned for his tough tackling, Catts was a fan favourite because he truly defined what it meant to play for the shirt. As his reputation grew for being a tough opponent, so did his yellow card tally. As such he became the most carded player in Sunderland’s history, with 88 yellow cards. It was his hard-working style that appealed to me the most as every team needs a player like Lee to keep the clock ticking and to also get the game by the scruff of the neck. Despite Lee leaving recently, he will be remembered fondly by most fans.

 

Centre Midfield: Steed Malbranque

A wizard on the ball, Steed joined Sunderland from Tottenham in 2008 and was a mainstay for the lads during his three-year stay. Steed was always an entertaining player to watch and I loved how he always managed to get past nearly everyone with his tricks.

 

Centre midfield: Sebastian Larsson

The Swede joined from Birmingham in 2011 and from his debut to his last game, I was always a fan. Seb was known for his ability from deadball situations. His freekicks were outstanding and his deliveries from wide were second to none. A favourite moment of mine that Seb gave was his freekick against Blackburn Rovers to clinch the win in the dying minutes of the game.

 

Left wing: Aiden McGeady

The Irishman has been a shining light during our recent dark times. McGeady can do anything with the ball at his feet and thankfully last season he showed us what he was made of. If only he’d not broken a bone in his foot during the run in…

 

Right Wing: Stephane Sessegnon

Not always a winger, he spent most his time being more of a number 10, but I’ve put him out wide in my ultra-attacking line up. His finest moment came against Fulham where the Benin star cut inside onto his favoured right foot and curled the ball into the far corner from roughly 25 yards out. Another moment of magic came against the Mags away when he scored the first goal of the 3-0 battering under PDC. It was these two moments that truly stand out to me and that is the reason why I class him as one of the best we’ve had.

 

Striker: Jermain Defoe

If I was older I’d probably have chosen Kevin Phillips, but Jermain was still one of the most deadly finishers that Sunderland have ever had. Defoe’s movement off the ball also made him a handful for defenders and at the same time freed the space for others to push on. His highlight in the Sunderland shirt was the volley he scored against Newcastle, but on top of that his goals kept us safe from the drop. How we could do with him now…

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At the back end of the 1980s, football fanzines began to sweep the country and in 1989 we were presented with a new vehicle on which to enjoy some of this ride – A Love Supreme. ALS was a place we could all go to celebrate and commiserate being a Sunderland fan. Win, lose or draw, the pages of the fanzine became solace for many of us as we stumbled our way through our day to day lives, punctuated by the ups and downs of more match days than any of us care to remember.

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