Here we are once again with Steed Malbranque, only this time he actually faces a real challenge in the form of Julio Arca.
You have to give Arca his due - he was an immensely popular player at the club for a reason. A cult hero who also had that slither of quality that made him a genuine top division footballer. If he was up against anyone else here, I'd probably be voting for him myself. But he isn't up against just anyone. He is up against Steed Malbranque, and Steed was better.
How many Sunderland players have gone to Anfield and left three Liverpool players on their backsides as they nonchalantly shuffle away? One. How many Sunderland players have you genuinely looked forward to seeing all week long because you knew full well that at at least one point during the 90 minutes they'd have you out of your seat for all the right reasons? Certainly not many.
Arca was a similar kind of player to Malbranque. A flair player, easy on the eye, and capable of lighting up a dreary team. He just wasn't as good. There is no shame in it but it is the truth. When it comes to players of this ilk, Steed Malbranque is peerless in a Sunderland shirt over the last decade.
It is all too easy to say that Arca deserves extra credit because he played in a worse team. But it is surely much easier to shine and stand out in a bad team? Players like Stephen Elliott and Liam Lawrence looked decent in next to Jeff Whitley. Malbranque played in the same side as the likes of Darren Bent, Jordan Henderson, Asamoah Gyan, and Bolo Zenden and STILL stood out at Premier League level over a matter of years. For me, that deserves more recognition.
He didn't score many, but neither did Arca really in the top division. Was his final ball as good as it could have been? Not always, but neither was Arca's. His role in Darren Bent's 24-goal season was crucial though. He proved over and over again that if a player was making clever runs, he would find them.
This match-up will be close and will till at the heart-strings of many. However, if we take away the cult hero status of Arca and judge them as dispassionately as possible on the basis of football alone, Malbranque has to shade it. He was capable of more and delivered it on a more consistent basis and at a higher level.
Go with the head over the heart on this one. Vote Steed. He was, quite simply, a better footballer. (MG)
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...