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Hardmen - We Salute You

Over the years, Sunderland have been fortunate enough to recruit some of the hardest blokes in football history.

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Kevin Ball - 388 Appearances, 27 Goals

Committed. Passionate. Aggressive. Strong.

Those are all words that sit alongside the name of Kevin Ball perfectly.

Signed in 1990 from Portsmouth by then manager Denis Smith, Bally - an imposing figure comfortable both as a central defender and a midfielder - became a club icon and treasured hero, giving his all every time he stepped onto the pitch in his hard-fought nine years here as a player.

Most of our supporters will recall him as being one of the last true servicemen of the club, but many outside of Sunderland remember him as that bloke that smashed Duncan Ferguson and sent the ball thirty-five yards towards his own goal and off the crossbar, or as the bloke that attempted to end David Dunn in a Lancashire derby. He was nails.

Along with many years of battling with referees and the likes of Vinnie Jones, Bally has countless red cards and bans on his record and the bloke proved that, despite his Southern roots, he would run through brick walls for this club if it meant we'd achieve something, earning 'honorary mackem' status for life. What a man.

Billy Whitehurst - 18 Appearances, 3 Goals

A strong and powerful centre forward, Billy Whitehurst endured a short-lived spell at Sunderland and arrived at the club with a reputation, known nationwide as a burly hard man who regularly received bad press regarding his off-field antics.

Prior to signing for Sunderland Whitehurst played for Oxford United, where it was rumoured that he partook in bare-knuckle fights with gypsies in his spare time. Whitehurst's demeanor and difficult personality was well noted by the defenders who played against him, to the extent that one of the finest defenders of his generation, Alan Hansen, once described him as 'Frightening'. Nuff said.

Joe Bolton - 325 Appearances, 12 Goals

After signing for the club as a youngster Bolton spent nine years gracing the Roker Park turf, playing primarily as a left back. He never bottled a 50-50 challenge and level-headedly took wingers out of games with his brute strength and tough tackling - Bolton was a man's man and they just don't make them like him any more, certainly not in the Premier League anyhow.

He was adored by the Sunderland fans of the 1970's, who appreciated his work rate and the fact he wore his heart on his sleeve. Bolton's most infamous moment as a Sunderland player came in a 1-0 loss at Ayresome Park to Middlesbrough, with the Boro winner coming as a result of a free kick which was awarded after Bolton stuck the nut on Terry Cochrane and was promptly sent off.


Terry Butcher - 42 Appearances, 1 Goal

Although Butcher never had a particularly great time in charge of Sunderland - flirting with relegation in his first full season as player-manager - he is best known on Wearside for his bonkers tactics, press conferences and post-match celebrations.

He will be immortally remembered for battling through a serious head wound in a game against Sweden for England, helping to secure a vital point which helped England to qualify for Italia '90. He ended the game with claret streaming down his face, with his white England jersey now red and splattered with blood - for that I salute Terry Butcher, a true lunatic who gave his all for every side he ever represented.

Chris Makin - 143 Appearances, 1 Goal

Signed from French club Marseille in 1997, Monsieur Makin played in the promotion-winning side of 1999 under the mercurial Peter Reid, pairing down the right-hand side with Nicky Summerbee to create one of the best right hand side partnerships the club has ever seen. Never shy of a tackle, Makin imposed himself upon the opposition whilst remaining fairly disciplined.

His memory lives on however, as cries of 'SHOOOOOOOOOT!' are still heard during games to this day - Makin was infamous for getting into shooting positions and almost never getting close.

Still, he was a quality player in his day and came around at a time when old-fashioned full backs were on their way out and attack-minded, overlapping players like Makin were on their way in. Like his predecessors, however, Makin was not scared to throw himself into a hard tackle and that combination of kicking lumps out of people and being able to deliver a quality ball made him a firm favourite of the Sunderland supporters.

Lorik Cana - 35 Appearances, 0 Goals

Hard? Idiotic? Committed? You decide.

Cana didn't hang around at Sunderland for very long but battling performances, particularly against Arsenal and Liverpool in the 2009-2010 season, meant that the big Albanian earned his own chant from the Sunderland faithful exclaiming just how hard he really was. Branded a liability by some, Cana endured a bittersweet time at Sunderland and it was a shame that his ability didn't match his work ethic.

One thing is for sure though, he always gave his all and never shirked a big tackle. Cana was a player cast in the mould of an old-school hard man, displayed in just how many bans, yellow and red cards he picked up in just one season - the man was a nutter.

What other memories of Sunderland hardmen do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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