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Top Ten: Your Favourite Sunderland Strikers Of The Last Decade (Part Two)

We asked, you voted - which Sunderland striker of the last decade is the favourite of the Roker Report readers? We revealed your choices from ten to six yesterday. Today, we go from five to number one...

Stu Forster

5 - 88 votes, 5% - Asamoah Gyan

When the record signing of Asamoah Gyan from Rennes following on from the 2010 World Cup finals was announced it reinvigorated Sunderland fans that had been clamoring for a top class partner for Darren Bent. Gyan had been one of the star players at the World Cup that preceded his move to Wearside and his purchase was a real statement of intent from both the owner and the manager that Sunderland were going to build a side capable of breaking into the top ten of the division. And, when he got off to the perfect start with a goal away at Wigan, he danced his way into the hearts of the fans with his goal celebration.

When you take the fact he was backing up his casual and jovial side with goals it was very difficult not to warm to Asamoah Gyan. Although he wasn't prolific he was a great foil for Bent before his strike partner left, especially in home games, and further aided his popularity with the fans by scoring the equaliser in the dying seconds of the home game against Newcastle in January of 2011. I suppose the way I mark just how much I loved having Asamoah Gyan at our club is by the way I celebrated his equaliser against England for Ghana - in that moment I had forgotten which side I was supposed to be lending my support to.

When he left the club on loan after the transfer window had closed midway through September for a tin pot club in the United Arab Emirates it was a move that had dumbfounded the fans because it left us without our top striker with absolutely no opportunity to replace him. It immediately soured the memory of the player that the Sunderland fans had, particularly having suffered the Darren Bent debacle earlier in the year.

The bloke was frigging mental.

4 - 129 votes, 7% - Kenwyne Jones

It's often leveled at Kenywyne Jones that he is a 'lazy' player. The criticism almost became a parody of itself at the matches, listening to blokes shout at him for being a lazy bastard as he dared to misjudge a long ball, or not win an aerial duel. I thought quite the opposite was true - he was always the first one clearing a corner away in our box, and knew how to work a centre half better than most on his day. That's why now when I see him scoring regularly in the Championship for Cardiff now I'm happy for him, because although his time at Sunderland has come and gone and he's heading towards the end of his career - at least at a decent level - Kenwyne was a huge part of why we're still in this league today.

Although Anthony Stokes, Daryl Murphy and David Connolly had fired us into the Premier League, Roy Keane was under no illusions that he needed something extra to ensure we'd stay in the top flight in that initial campaign and it was the goals and contributions of Kenwyne Jones - a player making his name in the Championship with Southampton - that aided our survival.

The line often trotted out about Kenwyne is that 'on his day he was world class' and, in fairness, that was probably true. John Terry famously said of him following a game in 2008, "Jones was fantastic and I have played against him twice now. He is a very good player, very hard working and probably the best in the air in the entire Premier League - he really is that good." He could be special, and his style of play - combining both pace, strength and skill - led to comparisons with Didier Drogba, often seeing the player linked with the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea.

The problem, I guess, is that Kenwyne was never going to be a twenty-goals-a-season striker, which is probably why he never found himself at a top four club. Kenwyne was always a one-in-three forward that would traditionally be used to hold the ball up and bring others into play.

The sad truth is that when he badly injured his knee in a game for Trinidad & Tobago against England in 2008 he never returned the same player. I read in Jimmy Bullard's book about the impact that damaging your knee ligament has on a player not only physically - you can be often missing for a full season, or more - but also mentally, that you just never return the same player as you're constantly playing in fear of being hurt again, knowing you are only one injury away from having your career ended. I look back on that last two years that Kenwyne had at the club with that in mind - although he returned and formed decent partnerships with both Djibril Cisse and Darren Bent, he'd often go on long spells without a goal.

That said, I think the majority of Sunderland fans will look back at his time at the club with fond memories. When he arrived at the club in the summer of 2007 the likes of Jon Stead and Andy Gray were players still fresh in the memory of Sunderland fans and we welcomed the big Trinidadian - and his goal celebration - with open arms. That is why, with 129 votes, Kenwyne Jones sits at number four in your list.

3 - 179 votes, 10% - Fabio Borini

When Fabio Borini was signed on deadline day of last season in a loan deal from Liverpool it was a transfer met with mixed reactions from the Sunderland supporters. Afterall, strengthening our attacking positions was much needed and doing so with a young player that had thus far done absolutely nothing in the top flight in this country was definitely a risk.

Paolo Di Canio was keen not to throw him in too early on (might things have been different if he had done?) and, when the mental bastard lost his job, Borini grasped his greatest opportunity to date by scoring the winner in the home derby against Newcastle.

From then on Fabio truly established himself as a big game player - scoring and contributing to goals when the mattered most, particularly in our run towards the end of the season which kept us in the league and in the latter stages of our League Cup run, culminating with the opening strike in the final at Wembley. In the eyes of most fans he was untouchable.

Would he have been at the top of this list had he committed his future to the club this summer gone? Who knows.

2 - 196 votes, 11% - Djibril Cisse

Enigmatic - that would be how I'd best describe Djibril Cisse. He was in equal parts frustrating and brilliant - and I imagine he wasn't always a dream to work with - but the bloke was genuinely class and was a massive statement signing for a club that had only just successfully battled relegation to stay in the league under the management of Roy Keane. This was a striker that had played for Liverpool, had played for France regularly and, in the season previous, had been playing Champions League football. It was a loan deal, which we've learned since isn't always ideal in the long run, but we'd finally brought a player to our club that showed Sunderland meant business.

When you sign Djibril Cisse he comes with all the glitz and glam - his image is arguably more famous than anything he'd ever done in football. The hair, the beard, the clothes, the tattoos, the 'Lord of Frodsham' title - some might say that Djibril Cisse has a bit of an ego.

We lapped it up though - at least initially. Anyone that can make Sunderland seem relevant is good in my books. Still to this day my favourite goal celebration by a Sunderland player was from Cisse, in the game against Newcastle at the Stadium of Light when he opened the scoring. He just went absolutely mental. The bloke celebrated like he cared, and we just loved it.

Once Roy Keane left the club abruptly I think everyone suffered, not at least Djibril Cisse. Keane says himself in his latest book that he had told the board in the summer that we were going to work towards breaking into the top eight that season. You would imagine that it is this motion that sold the club to Cisse. When all things pointed to another relegation scrap - with the club now led by a man who didn't particularly want the job in Ricky Sbragia - the mood changed. From February of 2009, when the club went on a run of winning only one game in thirteen, Cisse's contribution was minimal. He no longer played with the same swagger as he did at the start of his time here.

Djibril always maintained he wanted to stay at Sunderland and, even upon leaving the club after his loan deal expired at the end of the season, Cisse was hopeful of returning to the club where he had build a special bond with the fans.

Now a few years have passed I can only look back on his time at the club with fondness. His ten goals that season and his partnership with Kenwyne Jones - coupled with a goal in each of the derby games that season - have ensured that Djibril Cisse made in into second place on our list.

1 - 600 votes, 33% - Darren Bent

Clearly, time is a great healer.

One thing we rarely come across at Sunderland is a striker that actually scores goals regularly. We're deprived, in that sense. Sure, I hold fond memories of Djibril Cisse, Kenwyne Jones, Asamoah Gyan and Fabio Borini and their time at Sunderland but, in fairness, how many goals did they actually score for us? How often did they score? In recent years we've hung our hats on the brilliant run that Kevin Phillips had at Sunderland but other than that, how many real top class strikers have the current generation of supporters really seen in a red and white shirt?

The Darren Bent era, in a nutshell, was both brilliant and horrific. Finally we had a top class striker to call our own. Finally, after years of waiting for the next Kevin Phillips to come along, we had a forward that not only talked the talk but backed it up with goals and beat his chest when he celebrated. We overcame the disappointment of the season previous by bringing a proven goalscorer into the club that the fans instantly attached themselves to. The night that he traveled to the North East to complete his move from Spurs was one of my favourite as a supporter of this club - from his mate posting their flight ticket details online to the tweets about not wanting to sign for Hull or Stoke, but wanting to sign for nobody other than Sunderland. To the fans, it felt special - we felt like we'd taken a huge step towards improvement.

First, there was the header on his debut away at Bolton. I was in the away end that day, and it was class. Cattermole and Cana were ruthless in the middle, and up front our latest acquisition was doing the business by putting the chances away.

After that the goals kept coming thick and fast. Away at Manchester United we took the lead through a fantastic strike from Bent, only to be undone by a late equaliser. Then there was the beachball goal that undone Liverpool; there was the late winner at home to Arsenal. He got a hattrick against Bolton - the first from a Sunderland striker since Marcus Stewart to bag one - and the goals kept flying in. His popularity amongst the fans could not have been stronger.

He finished the season with twenty-five goals, and found himself back in the reckoning for a place in Fabio Capello's England squad.

Then, things turned sour.

Despite being the top scoring English striker in that season, Bent was omitted from the squad for the World Cup finals in 2010. How? Capello felt the player needed to play for a bigger club than Sunderland if he was to have a future for the national side.

Bent's agent spent the summer trying to find a way out of the club. There were bids from teams in Turkey, which Bent welcomed, but the club were keen to keep the player, knowing just how good they had gotten it. The club showed faith in a player they had invested heavily in and weren't prepared to allow him to slip away. Bent's motives were clear - he wanted to earn more money and improve his chances of playing for England with it. The club kept the debacle quiet and managed to hide the truth from the fans - from the outside, all appeared to be rosy.

The sad thing is that we all still felt a great deal of sympathy towards Bent after he was omitted from the World Cup squad and, while we were all defending and supporting our player, he was trying to engineer a move away from the club.

Eventually came the transfer requests and move to a club that were below us in the table - for a ridiculous sum of money, in fairness - and since many, me included, have taken great delight in seeing Bent's football career capitulate since leaving Sunderland.

Obviously though, you - the readers of this website - prefer to remember the good times, and I think that on reflection that is exactly how I'm going to remember Darren Bent's time at Sunderland. As annoyed as the whole situation made me at the time I think going forward I'd like to remember Bent for all the good that he did for the club - the goals and the transfer fee received mainly - and not the bad, like tricking us all into thinking that there are footballers that exist that actually give a shit.

So aye, cheers for the goals Darren. As voted for by the readers of Roker Report, Darren Bent is your favourite Sunderland striker of the last decade.

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