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Updated: Jul 21

Today, I will be naming my all-time Sunderland XI. They will be my favourite players I’ve seen in my 16 years as a fan. Some players may not be the most technically gifted or fondly remembered. The first season I remember was 06-07, so there will be no Quinn, Phillips or Arca.


An easy selection for me. One of our own, Pickford graduated from the club's academy in 2016 after an injury to then starting goalkeeper Vito Mannone. In his only season starting for the club, he was one of only a few bright sparks, given we finished rock bottom of the league with just 24 points. His outstanding performances earned him the club's Young Player of the Year award and made sure his season didn’t go unnoticed as he sealed a move to Everton in 2017 for a British record fee for a goalkeeper. He has since become England's number one, putting in massive performances for England during the Euros and World Cup.


In my time as a fan, we haven’t had the best right-backs, and even Bardsley wasn’t the most gifted footballer, but he would leave everything on the pitch for the club. He didn’t provide many highlights during his six-year spell at the club, so I will never forget his goal in the 119th minute of the semi-final of the League Cup against Man United, however fortunate it may have been… thanks De Gea. We might have lost in the final, but what a great night for the fans.


“They tried to get the ball past Nyron, but he said no, no no" was my favourite song as a seven-year-old. While there are quite a few centre-backs better than Nyron that miss out on being included, the fact I still sing that song to this day means he has to have a spot. Nyron was voted the clubs Player of the Season in 2006-07, the season the club came from 24th to finish top of the championship under Keano.


O’Shea won everything with Man United during his time there, so when he joined the club in 2011, it was exciting to get a player of his calibre and experience. Although his prime years may have been with United, O’Shea was a great leader during his seven years at the club and gave us stability for many years. Consecutive relegations, however, would see him move to Reading on a free.


Rose was on loan during the 2012-13 season, and sadly for Sunderland fans, that would be his lone season at the club. After a season of top performances and many marauding runs from left-back, the club failed to secure a permanent transfer, and Rose became the starting left-back for Spurs. Despite a loan stint at Newcastle in 2020, there was no debate over this position for me.


Maybe a controversial choice given his final season at the club, which was a disappointing campaign in 2016-17. However, his loan spell at the club still lives fondly in my memory. After a seven-goal season, which included massive goals against Newcastle and Chelsea, Borini was named Young Player of the Year. However, the Italian would escape Sunderland’s grasp as we failed to secure a permanent transfer. Unlike Rose, he would return a year later for £8 million. While his permanent spell wouldn’t live up to his 2013 season, it wouldn’t feel right to omit him from my team.


What Cattermole lacked in technical ability, he more than made up for in his leadership, determination and crunching tackles. That was something he gave the club across ten years and 280 appearances. Cattermole would never shy away from any battle and gave the club some much-needed spite during his years here.


The second academy product to make the team, Henderson made his debut for the club at just 19. His quality in the centre of the park was apparent for fans to see, and we knew we had a star on our hands. After winning Young Player of the Year two years in a row at the club, it was only a matter of a time before a big club came calling. In 2011 he went to Liverpool for £20 million and has since made over 300 appearances, captaining them to numerous trophies, including the Champions League and Premier League.


Without a doubt, the most technically gifted player I have ever seen at Sunderland. Whenever he touched the ball, he would bring individual creativity and excitement I hadn’t seen from a midfield player during my time as a fan. This would only make it all the more painful that he was sold to West Brom and would score against the club on two occasions.


Although his recent retirement may have left a sour taste in fans' mouths, this one was straightforward. Defoe is a Sunderland legend. After arriving at the club in a swap deal for Jozy Altidore, Defoe could’ve been goalless in his Sunderland career and been considered a success. That didn’t happen; however, Defoe became an instant success banging in the goals left and right. His volley against Newcastle is the best goal I have ever witnessed at the Stadium Of Light. The goals, along with his connection to young Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, showed fans around the world the type of guy he is and is another reason he will forever be a Sunderland legend.


A controversial choice, but Darren Bent’s eye for goal was second to none I’ve seen at the SOL. In his two years at the club, Bent scored 32 goals in 52 appearances and was on his way to legendary status with fans. However, Aston Villa came calling with a pay rise for Bent, and he never looked back. This ruined his relationship with fans, who have hated him ever since. But he simply has to be on this list due to his quality.