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Starting XI: Sunderland’s greatest ever January signings - who makes the team?

With the January transfer window almost upon us, we’ve taken a look back to come up with a team consisting of the best players signed by Sunderland during the first month of the year over the last three decades. Who makes our team?

Claudio Reyna
Captain America makes our list
Getty Images

GK: Shay Given

Okay, this may be a controversial pick because he’s a Mag, but we’re assembling a squad of Sunderland’s best January acquisitions and, the truth is, there’s not been a better goalkeeper brought in during January over the years than the Irish stopper.

He was 18-years-old and had never played competitive football before landing at Roker, but that mattered not a lot. He went on to keep a record number of clean sheets, playing a massive hand in ensuring that Sunderland were promoted to the Premier League, under the management of Peter Reid, for the very first time since its inception.

Shay Given was fantastic during his short loan period.
The Chronicle

RB: Phil Bardsley

The former Manchester United right back embodied everything that the Wearside faithful loved in a defender - he was tough in the tackle, played with his heart on his sleeve and was occasionally capable of scoring absolute screamers.

Oh, and let’s not forget that he helped to give many Sunderland fans the greatest night of their lives when he scored away at Manchester United in the League Cup semi final, a lifeline which allowed us the chance to go on and win the game on penalties.

Despite the fact that numerous right backs were signed during Bardo’s time at the club, he continually ousted them from the position and was one of the first names on the team sheet season after season, regardless of who the manager was.

All that for £2m? Not bad business at all, when you think about it.

Sunderland v Northampton Town - Carling Cup
A bargain at £2m, Bardo was our first choice right back for almost six seasons.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

CB: Jonny Evans

Not many players find themselves universally loved by an entire fan-base the way Jonny was, but you’d be hard pushed to find someone who didn’t admire the current Leicester City centre half during his two loan spells at the Stadium of Light.

Evans read the game like a season pro when he was still a teenager, and was a huge reason why we were not only promoted to the Premier League, but then able to survive the drop during the following season.

We tried to sign him on a permanent deal but, alas, the Northern Ireland international was unsurprisingly destined to be a first-teamer under Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford in the years to come.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League
Jonny Evans was excellent in two spells for the club.
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

CB: Lamine Kone

The Ivorian was brilliant for us following his move from Lorient, introducing himself to the Sunderland faithful by making Yaya Toure float across the pitch like a fart in the wind with a simple shoulder barge.

It did go horribly wrong shortly afterwards, but what big Lamine gave us during that initial six month period was colossal - it can’t be denied that he was paramount to our survival under Sam Allardyce, forming a terrific partnership with Younes Kaboul.

Oh, and it can’t go without mentioning that he scored a brace against Everton which, when you think about it, led to Newcastle United’s relegation at our expense.

You can’t knock how important his contribution was for us during the 2015/16 season, even if he acted like a bit of a twat in the seasons that followed.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League
Although it went sour, Lamine Kone’s arrival in January 2016 was hugely important to survival.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

LB: Marcos Alonso

Five million quid and he could have been ours. FIVE MILLION. Good God.

Cheers Congers - at least we got Patrick van Aanholt, eh...

Alonso’s introduction to the Sunderland supporters was a big one as he put in a man of the match on his debut in a League Cup semi-final win over Manchester United. He kicked on from there, and was an integral part of the squad that overcame the odds with the infamous 2013/14 Premier League great escape - really showing his class with a string of fantastic performances from the left-hand side of defence.

Sadly, the club weren’t able to stump up the cash it would have taken to bring Alonso to Wearside on a permanent basis, and he went on to have a great career elsewhere instead.


Manchester United v Sunderland - Premier League
An instant hit, Marcos Alonso has since won the Premier League title. Sigh.
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

RM: Carlos Edwards

What an impact the Trinidadian had when we somehow prized him away from Luton Town for a measly £1.5m during the January transfer window of 2007 - along with Jonny Evans, Danny Simpson, Marton Fulop, Anthony Stokes and Stern John, Edwards was brought in to solidify a faltering Sunderland side that, without investment, looked uncertain to achieve promotion that season.

The pacey right winger made scoring screamers a weekly occurrence and was part of a team that only tasted defeat once in a mesmerising run towards the Championship title - proving that, sometimes, you have to speculate to accumulate.

His winning goal that season against Burnley is quite rightly remembered as one of the greatest moments that we’ve seen at the Stadium of Light - and, for that reason, Carlos Edwards will forever be remembered fondly by the supporters that were fortunate enough to see him enjoying the greatest football of his career whilst wearing a Sunderland shirt.

Southampton v Sunderland
The greatest winger in the world - and Gareth Bale.
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

CM: Jan Kirchhoff

God damn, I loved Jan Kirchhoff - hell, we all did! He could absolutely dominate games from the centre of the park, and the sheer enormity of him meant not many midfielders could match him in terms of strength or height either.

His passing ability made me salivate. By golly... he was glorious.

His injury record meant we managed to prise him away from Bayern Munich - yes, the Bayern Munich - for the tiny sum of £500k - a gamble on our part, where we either got a perennially crocked yet talented player, or someone who was past the worst of his injuries and was going to have the kind of impact we needed in order to stave off relegation.

Unfortunately for him, and for us, once Sam Allardyce left the true nature of his injury troubles came to light and we simply couldn’t get him on the pitch - but for that short period towards the end of the 2015/16 season Jan Kirchhoff was sheer, unadulterated class.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League
The greatest German to ever live.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

CM: Claudio Reyna

For those of you too young to remember him, the American captain could have played high-level football wearing slippers with a pipe hanging out of his mouth, such was his supreme ability on the ball in the centre of the park.

With Bally leaving for Fulham in the previous season and Stefan Schwarz getting no younger, Peter Reid opted to bring in Reyna from Scottish giants Rangers and somehow managed to get him for just £4.5m - which even then was bloody good business.

Typically for us, he was another who succumbed to a bad knee injury and by the time he recovered, we were relegated, but that’s Sunderland innit?

Sunderland v Leicester X Captain America, Claudio Reyna.

LM: Andy Reid

Fighting off competition from the likable Whabi Khazri is a man with a wand of a left foot, Republic of Ireland international Andy Reid, who was signed by Roy Keane back in 2008.

Reid’s career was forever overshadowed by his constant issues with weight, yet despite the problems he had, his quality on the ball and from dead-ball situations rarely failed to shine through during his performances for Sunderland.

In fact, his first contribution as a Sunderland player was to play a world class cross-field ball to Daryl Murphy, who then proceeded to take inspiration from his talented teammate by slamming home a wonderful strike from all of thirty yards in a game at the Stadium of Light against Wigan Athletic.

Reid struggled to really get going once Steve Bruce came in and was behind Bolo Zenden and Danny Welbeck in the pecking order, yet still to this day supporters remember him fondly for some of his magical individual displays during his short time with the club.

Sunderland v Aston Villa - Premier League
Andy Reid had a wand of a left foot.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

CAM: Stephane Sessegnon

Once in a generation a player comes along at Sunderland who is capable of the absolute sublime - the sort of footballer that makes the price of a match ticket worth paying, that can get you up out of your seat with some of the things they’re able to do with the ball at their feet.

Stephané Sessegnon is, without a shadow of doubt, one of those players - a mercurial talent that was just as likely to go missing in a game as he was to completely destroy a top-class defence with some of the devastating skill he was capable of producing.

I suppose that’s why he eventually ended up at Sunderland - if he could perform at a consistent level week to week, he would have had a very comfortable game playing at the very top of the game.

But, luckily for us, he came to our club during the January of 2011 and we at least got to enjoy watching him do his stuff for a painfully short two-and-a-half years, a spell ended after Paolo Di Canio decided that Sessegnon wasn’t his type of player - a defining moment in the Italians short reign in charge of the club.

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League
The son of Messi and Pele.
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

CF: Jermain Defoe

Rounding off this feature is a man who is no stranger to anyone reading this article - the evergreen Jermain Defoe, a player who arrived at Sunderland as part of a deal which will go down in the history books as one of the greatest that the club have ever made.

Defoe’s signing was as a result of immense fate - it just so happened that Sunderland owned the most well-known young player in American soccer, whilst Toronto FC had a disrupted Premier League legend on their books that they desperately wanted shot of.

So, with a deal to be done, the club acted.

Somehow, the club managed to convince Toronto into doing a swap deal - they got Jozy Altidore - who had become a figure of derision on Wearside due to his sheer inability to score goals or perform at a level anywhere near what you expect of a Premier League centre forward - and we got Jermain Defoe, who then went on to bang goals in for fun for the majority of his stay with the club, including a memorable strike which put Newcastle United to the sword as we secured a vital victory over our Tyneside rivals at the Stadium of Light.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

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