Player Of The Last Ten Years Poll, Round One: Kieran Richardson Vs David Connolly

Julian Finney

Two very different players go head to head today as our tournament to find the best Sunderland player of the last ten years moves on. It's the versatile and mobile Kieran Richardson versus the immobile but goalscoring sensation, David Connolly. Go ahead and vote your winner...

Kieran Richardson

Not content with his on-going reign as Sunderland's Craig Charles look-a-like champion of all time, our former left back, left sided midfielder, forward etc. also has his name in the running for our Player Of The Last Ten Years Poll this summer and I'm here to tell you why you should vote for Richardson.

Two words.

THAT PONYTAIL

I suppose I should probably put together a stronger case for Keiran, although having the testicular fortitude to actually cultivate such an impeccable hair style should not go forgotten. It was truly a thing of beauty.

Richardson became somewhat of a modern day Darren Williams and was utilised in almost every position you can imagine despite being touted as the answer to our long standing left-back issue. In truth Richardson looked to be settling in nicely in the left-back berth before a combination of injuriy and Steve Bruce's judgement led to him being removed from that spot rather prematurely.

Richardson had a great footballing brain, especially when it came to timing his runs from deep, which leads me on nicely to another often forgotten aspect of his game - his pace and stamina - something which was sorely missing from the Sunderland defence at that time.

Fans should look back fondly on a number of moments when Richardson proved to be a match winner on his day. Firstly there was that FA Cup win over Arsenal when he completely nullified the much hyped Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain thus eliminating one of the Gunners' main threats that afternoon.

Secondly there was his brace against Blackpool when he stepped up to the plate following the exit of Darren Bent and an injury to Danny Welbeck and played in a more forward role alongside Asamoah Gyan - two clinical finishes which sealed all three points for his side.

Finally there was also the small matter of a thunderous freekick in a Wear/Tyne Derby which sealed Sunderland's first victory over the Magpies on home turf in twenty-eight years, culminating in wild scenes of celebration and memories to savour. (DB)

David Connolly

What, you actually need me to explain to you why David Connolly is Sunderland's best player of the last decade? Seriously? Well OK then, if you're sure...

Best is a highly subjective term; you could take it to mean most skilful, or best strike-rate, or best dancer, but in football it more often than not means most important. Was Michael Carrick's Manchester United's most technically accomplished footballer (/finisher/dancer) last season? No. Was he their most important and therefore best player? I'd say yes.

The same is true of Connolly. He may not immediately stand out as one of the true Sunderland greats of the past decade, but his importance cannot be questioned. He ended the promotion push of 2006/07 as the top-scorer for the Championship champions with 13 goals to his name. Those goals, and the promotion that they helped us to earn, are crucial to Sunderland being what we are today. Yes you may get more excited by some of, say, Stephane Sessegnon's step-overs (simply superb alliteration there, even if I do say so myself), but we would have had no chance of attracting players of his quality without David Connolly's performances in 06/07.

Since that season we haven't left the Premier League, and this has given us the grounding for the Ellis Short and Paolo Di Canio revolution of this summer. All of the footballing mana from heaven we currently enjoy is thanks to us managing to get promotion that season. Do you honestly think we'd be able to attract footballers of the quality of, say, David Vaughan and Craig Gardner in the Championship or even lower? Er, on second thoughts don't answer that.

Without that promotion we could be quite easily languishing with former Premier League clubs such as Wolves and Coventry in League 1, instead we are happily lounging (with a nice cold drink) on the sun-soaked beaches of mid- to low-table Premier League obscurity. And we have David Connolly to thank for that. (NH).

(Also: "DAVID CONNOLLY, CONNOLLY, DAVID CONNOLLY, NANANANANANA!")

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Be sure to make your vote count and send one of these two through to the next round. Make your voice heard below, because you only have until 11pm (GMT) tonight to get your vote in...

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