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My Greatest SOL XI

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Last week I did a two part feature on the top ten games at the Stadium of Light as it enters its twentieth season. Now, trying to pull myself away from the negativity of our pre-season, it got me thinking - what are the best eleven Sunderland players to play there since its doors opened in 1997?

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GK - Simon Mignolet

This was a position that I debated for many minutes - Tommy Sorensen was comfortably our most consistent performer, but Simon Mignolet's form in his final season at Sunderland was outstanding. I just couldn’t seem to look past it.

At points he was unbeatable, and his contributions that year virtually kept us in the Premier League. Mig, yer in.

RB - Chris Makin

Chris Makin was Mr Reliable. He battered into many left wingers over his years at the club until he was mysteriously sold by Peter Reid to Ipswich. Makin was very much a modern full back, supporting Nicky Summerbee superbly down the right hand side, getting forward and joining in the attacks whenever he could.

Makin played in our most successful period at the Stadium, and coincidentally our form dipped when he was sold.

CB - Steve Bould

Steve Bould was a leader on and off the pitch, helping the younger players and the ones with no top flight experience to, at one point, second in the league (we eventually finished seventh, but shhh) - it’s no wonder he’s now the assistant at one of the most successful clubs in England.

Despite his career being ended by injury in only the second game of the following season, Bould more than earned his place in my starting eleven. He was class.

CB - Lamine Kone

I had John Mensah, Jonny Evans, Jody Craddock and many, many more in contention for this position but the more I thought about big Lamine, the more I realised that I had no bad memories of him from last season.

His influence was a massive reason for us staying in the league - time will tell, but he’s been colossal so far and will become more than just a cult hero if continues as he has done.

LB - Danny Rose

England’s current number 3 came to Sunderland under Martin O’Neill on loan. Signed virtually unknown and to little fanfare, he left as fan favourite and is still loved by many. His performances down the left hand side were impressive and consistent and made him the player he is today - a difficult and ultimately boring season was brightened up by his presence in our team.

Shout out to Marcos Alonso and Micky Gray who were also great for us, but no one touches this lad in my eyes.

DM - Jan Kirchhoff

Kirchhoff is strong in the tackle, whilst typically composed, and has a range of passing seemingly exclusively available only in Germany. A purchase from giants Bayern Munich, he recovered from a nightmare debut at Spurs in frighteningly good fashion, turning in match winning or point saving performances literally every week.

Rarely shackled off the ball and never hassled, his forty-yard plus pass with the outside of his boot to Jermain Defoe at home to Arsenal was just the tip of the iceberg. I absolutely love him.

RM - Nicky Summebee

Nicky never really did anything outside of his time at Sunderland, arriving here in a swap deal for 'Jarra Arra' Craig Russell from Manchester City, but his quality under the leadership of Peter Reid cannot be questioned. He has to go down in the history books as one of the greatest Sunderland wingers of his generation.

Summerbee was probably the most accurate crosser of a ball we’ve ever seen at the Stadium of Light, Often described as lazy, he simply didn’t have to move very much to pick out the head of Quinny. There were, in some quarters, comparisons between the crossing of Summerbee and David Beckham. Yes.

Buzzer was instrumental in so many goals from 1997 to 2001, as his link up play with Chris Makin often resulted in one of Niall Quinn or Kevin Phillips getting on the end of inch perfect deliveries into the box.

CAM - Stephane Sessegnon

Stephane Sessegnon, for his flaws, was one of those most technically gifted players we've seen at Sunderland - the type you pay your money to watch when he's on top form.

Though Sess did struggle for consistency, especially in the later part of his tenure at the club, he was a joy to watch at times and almost impossible to not love. I could watch him tear Newcastle’s defence a new arsehole in the famous 3-0 win at St James Park back in 2013 over and over and over again without ever getting bored.

LM - Allan Johnston

A predominately right-footed left midfielder, Allan Johnston was a joy to watch. Many people point to the fact he never had a full season in the Premiership as a Sunderland player, but he was two footed with wonderful tricks up his long sleeves - the fact he achieved double figures in terms of goals in his two seasons at the stadium from the wing is also often overlooked.

He was part of an unbelievably scary looking forward line, so I have no doubt if things hadn't gone sour, the wee Scot would still have been torturing top flight right backs on a regular basis without breaking a sweat.

Bloody Rangers, eh?

CF - Niall Quinn

What can you say about Quinny? The man is probably the biggest legend the club has ever had, and I mean that - he is a hero to many of us for more than football reasons.

He earns his place in this team because, well, he was quite simply MINT. I’m not sure I ever saw him have a bad game. His famous quote will live forever more, and if you’re wondering Niall, you got under our skin as well lad.

CF - Kevin Phillips

Signing Kevin Phillips for THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND POUNDS is quite simply the greatest piece of business we have ever done.

From the minute he walked through the door he just couldn't stop scoring goals. Lashing home the second against Manchester City in the first league game at the Stadium of Light, Phillips went on to hit another thirty-four in his first season alone, before winning the European Golden Boot in 2000.

He loved scoring against the Mags. One of his most famous Sunderland goals came in the first Derby that the Stadium of Light had ever had, when his late goal to level up the score nearly caused a riot.

It's hard to summarise just how brilliant he was.

Substitutes:

Darren Bent, Tommy Sorensen, Jermain Defoe, Jonny Evans, Jordan Henderson, Alex Rae, Stefan Schwarz.