If you haven’t been following the past week’s second tier shoot-out... well you’ve been missing out!
Imagine you are back in the school yard and a captain as the football teams were being picked. Before you stands every single player to have played for Sunderland AFC in the second tier of English football in the last twenty-five years and you are able to assemble a side that follow you into battle as we ascend upon the Championship.
Names were put in a hat to decide the order that our team went in, and the results were as follows:
1. Damian, 2. Fishpaste, 3. Rory, 4. Graham, 5. Gav, 6. Henchard, 7. Walshie, 8. Tom.
For every other round of selections however, that order was reversed.
Participants are able to use their selections however they wish, though the following rules must be followed:
- Squads must consist of eleven players and one substitute (12 picks each in all).
- Players who can play in multiple positions can be declared for one position in the selection process, but included in the final team in another. For example, Anthony Stokes could be picked as a midfielder, but also chosen to play in attack in the final teams, or Gary Bennett declared as a defensive pick but utilised anywhere you wish to place him, as is standard.
- Once a player is selected he is removed from the pool and ineligible to be selected by anyone else.
- Players are selected as they turned out for Sunderland AFC.
- Players selected must have played in a first-team game for Sunderland in the second tier in any of the following seasons: 92-93, 93-94, 94-95, 95-96, 97-98, 98-99, 03-04, 04-05, 06-07.
After twelve rounds of gruelling decisions, our writers have finalized their squads for a hypothetical shot at the Championship/old First Division, and it’s up to you to decide which side would be the most capable of securing promotion.
Here are the teams in all their quirky glory, from no-nonsense grafters to mercurial geniuses. Below is the stuff of pure imagination, but which of the subsequent options do you think is the best mixture of players from campaigns outside of the top division? Let us know in the poll at the bottom of the page.
Damian has gone all Pep/Cruyff on us and has created this wonderful amalgamation which he hopes can bring back the good times to Wearside. This side is inventive and could possibly be just mental enough to genuinely work.
A fairly solid squad sees Craig Russell asked to move into defence,whilst Lee Howey is tasked with being a nuisance up front. A midfield two of Owers and Ball will be the enforcers, while a fluid front four will look to wreak havoc in the opposition’s final third. Damian’s team might be a little unorthodox, yet it’s certainly a team you’d want to watch.
GK: Lionel Perez
DEF: Danny Simpson, Terry Butcher, Anton Rogan, Craig Russell
MID: Gary Owers, Kevin Ball
ATT: Lee Howey, Stern John, Danny Dichio, Daryl Murphy
SUB: Jamie Lawrence
The Captain has a very solid side, though his central midfield pairing leaves a lot to be desired. A standard 4-4-2 with Summerbee and Hysen providing the width would look to feed a potent front pairing of Phillips and Bridges who would absolutely rock the old First Division.
A fairly steady back four will look to protect the late, great Marton Fulop between the sticks. McAteer would provide the comedic entertainment in a side heavy with Irish influence. Who didn’t love the salt and pepper tenacity of Kavanagh!? A very decent side, we’re sure you’ll agree.
GK: Marton Fulop
DEF: Jason McAteer, Dickie Ord, Kenny Cunningham, Martin Scott
MID: Nicky Summerbee, Graham Kavanagh, Kevin Kilbane, Tobias Hysen
ATT: Super Kevin Phillips, Michael Bridges
SUB: Colin Cooper
Rory’s central defensive pairing of Nyron Nosworthy and Phil Babb should provide some entertainment if nothing else while Micky Gray is a good addition and will be a good option in both defence and attack.
Magic Johnston will take Liam Lawrence under his wing; Liam Miller gives the midfield impetus while Gavin McCann runs the show from the centre of the park. Sir Niall would certainly prove to be a nuisance to any side outside the top division, but Tommy Smith is something of a panic signing. A solid side, Rory’s squad could be in with a shout of the play-offs should they hypothetically ‘click’.
GK: Thomas Mhyre
DEF: Stephen Wright, Nyron Nosworthy, Phil Babb, Micky Gray
MID: Alan Johnston, Liam Miller, Gavin McCann, Liam Lawrence
ATT: Tommy Smith, Niall Quinn
SUB: Michael Proctor
Graham’s Sunderland side are solid if indeed unspectacular. A strong defence sits just behind a hard-working and technically gifted midfield four who would certainly be a potent force in the Championship; Ross Wallace was certainly underrated during his time at the club, and has gone on to prove himself a very decent player. Opposite Piper Graham’s midfield would have pace and trickery out wide, even if it was somewhat limited through the middle of the park.
A front two of Marcus Stewart and Martin Smith would definitely be a reliable strike-force, and could possibly fire this solid side into promotion contention though their combined total of 56 goals across lengthy spells on Wearside is a wee bit worrying.
DEF: Darren Holloway, Darren Williams, Neill Collins, Chris Makin
MID: Matt Piper, Paul Bracewell, Grant Leadbitter, Ross Wallace
ATT: Marcus Stewart, Martin Smith
SUB: Peter Davenport
Gav’s side certainly has the makings of a very decent outfit. A strong defence with the brilliant Shay Given between the sticks is the platform upon which his side is built - and you can expect Jonny Evans to be a key player.
In midfield Gav perhaps struggles slightly, though Julio Arca’s unbridled talent would be an asset to this interesting side. An interesting Irish duo up front could potentially be a potent partnership if the midfield could supply the goods - Whitehead won promotion to the Premier League again this season, so perhaps he’d be a lucky omen?
GK: Shay Given
DEF: John Kay, Steve Caldwell, Jonny Evans, George Mccartney
MID: John Oster, Gordon Armstrong, Dean Whitehead, Julio Arca
ATT: Anthony Stokes, Sleeves Elliott
SUB: Darren Carter
Ladies and Gentleman, come on down and feast your eyes on this Sunderland team of yesteryear. Literally none of the listed players in Mr. Henchard’s squad played after the millennium - surely he deserves credit for that?
Tony Norman was a cracking keeper and will boss that solid back four. Henchard’s midfield three would be full of legs, yet perhaps lack a little technicality; however, his front three would certainly prove a handful in the Champo. Hench has gone for a throwback XI which might interest some of our ‘older’ readers and would certainly please the crowd with their tenacity and levels of graft.
GK: Tony Norman
DEF: Clive Clarke, Andy Melville, Gary Bennett, Dariusz Kubicki
MID: Brian Atkinson, Derek Ferguson, Steve Agnew
ATT: Dave Kelly, John Byrne, Don Goodman
SUB: David Rush
Walshie has gone for a nifty formation that has stocked the midfield with some absolute quality in terms of mercurial talent. Clark, despite his obvious ruination, was an absolute quality player in his day, and would certainly boss most midfields outside the top division.
Downing was superb when on loan at the club, and Yorke and Thornton were great on their day. Connolly and Kyle is a canny combo; however, in defence Walshie looks rather suspect - Lynch!? What was he thinking!? Then again, there’s always the Poominator to head up for a corner and save the day, we suppose.
GK: Mart Poom
DEF: Mark Lynch, Gary Breen, Joachim Bjorklund
MID: Lee Clark, Dwight Yorke, Sean Thornton, Stewart Downing, John Mullin
ATT: David Connolly, Kevin Kyle,
SUB: Brian Deane
Possibly the most no-nonsense dream team ever assembled; would these lads even know how to show a bit of flair? Playing five at the back is a bit conservative to say the least - how many of those central three even know how to dribble!?
Edwards and Collins know a thing or two about being a bit flash, while a hard-working midfield is spearheaded by Darren Byfield and Phil Gray - who were busy forwards if not quite as prolific as other teams’ strike-forces. Not much in the way of flair, but this team would work its bollocks off in search of a win.
DEF: Carlos Edwards, Jody Craddock, Stan Varga, Paul Butler, Danny Collins
MID: Paul Thirlwell, Carl Robinson, Alex Rae
ATT: Darren Byfield, Phil Gray
SUB: Chris Brown
So whose side do you think stands the best chance of securing promotion? Will you go with a team full of grunt and tenacity, or perhaps you’ll side with flair and imagination? Let us know below.
So which team do you think would stand the best chance of promotion?
This poll is closed