Where better to start than with England’s number one (and one of our own) Jordan Pickford?
Arguably the best player to ever graduate from our academy, it really is a massive shame Pickford’s spell as first choice came during David Moyes’ abysmal tenure at the club. After an impressive World Cup campaign, Pickford has made the £30 million Everton paid for his services look like a bargain. In another time he could have been our modern-day Jimmy Montgomery.
It is easy to forget Pickford earned his chance at Sunderland by garnering experience out on loan at a number of lower-league clubs such as Carlisle. His short spell at the Cumbrian side proved difficult as they were relegated to League Two during his spell between the sticks, with the worst goal difference in the league.
That didn’t seem to knock his confidence, thankfully!
Sunderland: 35 games, 5 clean sheets. Carlisle: 18 games, 7 clean sheets.
I find it hard to believe that a former French International can somehow end up being relegated with Washington in the Northern League, but somehow Chimbonda has managed to do it!
Signed by Roy Keane alongside Teemu Tainio and Steed Malbranque from Tottenham, the full-back only lasted six months at Sunderland, with many citing a lazy, ungrateful and generally poor attitude as the reason for him getting the boot. He proved to be a huge let down for fans at Sunderland and following his departure he never managed to capture the form he showed at both Wigan and Spurs.
Chimbonda played alongside Pickford, featuring as a first team regular during Carlisle’s League One relegation in 2014. During that season Carlisle conceded 76 goals, likely leading to the defender being released at the end of the season.
Sunderland: 16 games, 0 goals. Carlisle: 28 games, 0 goals.
Whenever I think Stephen Elliott, I think about that goal against Newcastle. He’s one of those “what if” players who struggled to stay consistently fit throughout his career.
The Republic of Ireland International played his best football at Sunderland, scoring 15 goals during our promotion to the Premier League under Mick McCarthy in 2004/05. Unfortunately for Elliott, injuries stalled his Sunderland career from there on which led to him departing for Wolves - reuniting him with McCarthy.
Elliott’s time at Carlisle proved rather fruitless as he struggled to start games never mind hit the back of the net. Signed by fellow Irish International Graham Kavanagh, the striker fell out of favour - the likes of current Sunderland striker Charlie Wyke being preferred - before leaving the club after just one season.
Sunderland: 83 games, 22 goals. Carlisle: 18 games, 1 goal.
What a left foot this man had – an absolute magician with set pieces, he was.
Signed by former teammate Roy Keane, Harte made only 3 starts for Sunderland and struggled to shine in his limited showings. Frequently criticised for his lack of pace, Harte appeared to be finished, but the Irishman would go on to play Premier League football five years later.
His time at Carlisle reignited his career in England. During the 2009/10 season, Harte scored 18 times from defence and featured in the League One team of the year. This led to a transfer to Reading where he played in their Championship winning side, again hitting double figures from his defensive position.
Sunderland: 8 games, 0 goals. Carlisle: 63 games, 21 goals.
My only real memory of Graham Kavanagh is him scoring a cracker against Leeds in a 3-0 away win.
Signed by Roy Keane on deadline day alongside Irish duo David Connolly and Liam Miller, Kavanagh was not the most exciting player but did contribute to our return to the Premier League, which was probably my favourite season as a Sunderland fan.
Deemed surplus to requirements at Sunderland, the midfielder played out the final years of his career at Carlisle as they reached the EFL Trophy Final twice - winning it in 2011.
Kavanagh’s spell as manager of the Cumbrian side proved highly unsuccessful, though, as he led the team to relegation before being sacked the following season in September, with a win percentage of just 25%.
Sunderland: 15 games, 1 goal. Carlisle: 79 games, 11 goals.