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The SOL Years: This is the top 20 of SAFC players to play less than 25 games for the lads - #15-11

To celebrate 20 years at the Stadium of Light (and to help pass some time because that period between the season ending and starting is boring) Roker Report are looking at the top 20 players to play less than 25 games for the lads during the last 20 years.

Manchester City v Sunderland Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Number 15: Graham Kavanagh - 15 apps, 1 goal

Maybe it’s a case of rose tinted specs that has Kavanagh in 15th on this list, but I always felt that he played very well in a Sunderland shirt. He only played 15 games for the lads, but impressed in each one. I even recall seeing him in a reserve derby in 2008/09 at the SOL and he looked the best player on the park - closely followed by young winger Nathan Luscombe.

Kavanagh’s crowning Sunderland moment would have been his second appearance for the lads: Leeds United away in September 2006. A complete team performance which saw us run out 3-0 winners which for a midweek game - and the thousands of travelling Lads’ fans - was simply brilliant. All 3 goals were magnificent, including one from Kavanagh.

At that point it looked like Kavanagh would have been a snip for £500,000. But he was old, he was slow and he was injury prone. Kavanagh had a great few games to start his Sunderland career, but it became clear after a while that he could not last a full game and was constantly fighting niggling injuries.

Sunderland v Carlisle United - FA Cup Third Round
Kavanagh on his return to Sunderland with Carlisle in 2014
Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Graham slots in at 15th because I loved his first few games with the boys. But he was signed past his best and unfortunately that showed. Unbelievably he lasted until January 2009 when he was released and signed for Carlisle United who he would eventually manage.

Number 14: Dickson Etuhu - 21 apps , 1 goal

Etuhu was powerful, strong and skillful. He managed to dominate the midfield and was generally well liked by the Sunderland faithful. He scored his only goal in a crucial 2-0 home victory over Wigan. But Etuhu was never signed for his goal scoring abilities - it was his engine and play breaking abilities that made him such a strong influence in the middle of the park.

He was a victim of circumstance, however, and it was a criminal decision to get rid of him for a measly £1.5 million to Fulham in the summer of 2008.

One of my favourite moments involving Etuhu was when he started on Joey Barton in the home derby that season he was at the club. It was simply magnificent and certainly endeared him to the Sunderland faithful.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League
Dickson playing during our away defeat at Chelsea in December 2007
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

His last game for the lads was February 27th away against Portsmouth which unfortunately meant he never played in the final run in of the 2007-08 season where we managed to pull away from the relegation zone. Roy Keane felt that Etuhu was replaceable, so selling him probably did make sense. However, Etuhu moved to a Fulham team that would qualify for Europe, and get to the Europa League final. Both he and Danny Murphy were a strong midfield partnership with Etuhu acting as the enforcer - perhaps we were wrong to let him go so soon?

Number 13: Danny Simpson - 13 apps, 0 goals

I was torn if Danny Simpson should make it onto this list since he later became a mag and said nasty things about us. But Simpson was a solid player for us in 2006-07 and Roy Keane tried to sign him in the summer of 2007 only to be told he was not for sale.

Danny has since had a mixed career, but did win the Premier League with Leicester playing in nearly all of their games in that campaign. He has also had spells at Blackburn, the mags and QPR where he never quite found his feet.

The signings of Simpson and Evans in January 2007 were arguably crucial to our promotion that season. In fact Simpson has the unique accomplishment of never losing a game as a Sunderland player, with 11 wins and 2 draws, so for that reason alone he joins this list.

Southampton v Sunderland
Danny Simpson during our 2-1 win at Southampton in April 2007, a vital win en route to promotion.
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Number 12: DeAndre Yedlin - 25 apps, 0 goals

Another mag comes in now, but I hold far fewer hard-feelings towards Yedlin because we decided not to sign him when he was more than happy enough to make his move to Wearside a permanent one. When Yedlin signed for Sunderland he wasn't a great defender and did not look like a Premier League player whatsoever. Known solely for his pace and attacking threat, it seemed that is all he had before Big Sam came in and turned him into a competent Premier League defender.

Yedlin played 25 games for the lads and had a reasonably decent record with 6 wins and 9 draws. The American became an important part of the end of season run that saw Sunderland rise under Allardyce and relegate our dear neighbours in the process.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League
Yedlin and Van Aanholt celebrating survival against Everton. Yedlin relegating his future employers Newcastle.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Let’s be honest, Yedlin was never setting the world alight and never really looked convincing in the final third. But was he better than Billy Jones? Yes. Would he have improved our team last season if we had signed him? Yes. I liked Yedlin, therefore he finds himself at number 12 on this list. Hopefully, though, he crashes and burns next season.

Number 11: Darren Carter - 10 apps, 1 goal

I have probably placed Carter far too high in my list of players, but I attended his debut against Preston in September 2004 and he scored a rebound from a penalty - therefore he instantly endeared himself to me and indeed the Sunderland faithful. He only played 10 games for the lads, but he seemed to be full of energy and had an eye for a pass - he was a real creative spark in the middle of the pitch, and certainly did more than enough to win over the Sunderland fans in his brief spell here.

Sheffield United beat us 1-0 in the 2004-05 encounter at Brammall Lane
Darren Carter
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Carter was a good young player who most of us would have been happy to see return to the club after his loan spell. He was one of those players that really seemed to give his all, had quality about him and even said some nice stuff about us after his loan:

It's a tremendous set-up and it's a club that should be in the Premiership. Everything here is geared towards that and, if we can get promotion this year, everything's set up for top-flight football.

Carter was recalled by Birmingham in the December of that season and would go onto feature for the Blues in the remainder of their Premier League campaign. He then transferred to West Brom where he was famous for scoring a worldie at home to Arsenal. Since then, however, Carter has slowly moved down the leagues until landing at Forest Green Rovers where he achieved promotion this season - taking the club into the Football League.

Join us tomorrow as we bring you part three of this series!

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