The last twenty years of so have seen many different central defensive partnerships don the red and white stripes - from Nosworthy and Evans to Kaboul and Kone, not forgetting the dross in and around these pairs, decent centre half pairings have seemingly been hard to come by on Wearside.
These two duos aside, there hasn’t been much to shout about in that time. Baldwin and Flanagan showed glimmers of a decent partnership last season, but we all know how that ended up - and the less said about the state of our defenders in the Championship campaign in the previous year, the better.
The summer which has just been and gone saw Jordan Willis sign on a free transfer from Coventry City. With a wealth of Football League experience he was a welcome addition, locking down a starting eleven place relatively quickly. Good on the ball, strong and with a useful turn of pace, he was the ideal player for this level.
Alim Ozturk was given his chance to partner Willis for a period this season, but the last two games have provided Sunderland fans with a chance to see another summer signing.
Joel Lynch needed to wait several weeks to make his debut. When he did, he was solid in the 1-0 win at Sheffield United in the League Cup, in which he did enough to earn a league start against MK Dons. Despite Sunderland doing their best to throw away a two-goal lead, Lynch linked up well with Willis. Both looked steady on the ball and if it wasn’t for a lapse in concentration from Jon McLaughlin they would have registered a much-deserved clean sheet. As it was, they just had to settle for knowing the put a good shift in.
Having a solid pair in the middle of your defence is important in any division.
For Sunderland going further into another season in League One, a solid spine is of the upmost importance in order to get out of the third tier. We have needed two strong and competent central defenders. Baldwin and Flanagan both look as though a strong breeze would knock them over and Jimmy Dunne, who joined on loan for the second half of last season, wasn’t much better than either.
Lynch and Willis look the part - it’s now time for them to walk the walk.
Sunderland haven’t had a promotion season recently, but reflecting on our previous successful Football League campaigns there is an obvious common theme.
Jonny Evans and Nyron Nosworthy forged an iron-clad partnership which allowed Roy Keane to build a Championship winning side. This factor is important - we need a couple of centre halves who will firstly stand out in League One, but who are also capable of making the step up to the Championship. We will no doubt need to vastly improve in other areas of the pitch, but if we can have the same centre back pairing as this season it would go someway to maintaining stability before a ball has been kicked.
I would go as far to say that if Lynch and Willis carry on the way they have started during their relatively short Sunderland careers so far, they will win us plenty of points this season. Both have looked solid so far and, more importantly, your average Sunderland fan is not a nervous wreck when they receive the ball at their feet.
Being sensible on the ball but also having the sharp-mindedness to play a decent pass when needed makes for a tidy all-round central defender. If we see these two get a good run in the side together, I feel it will coincide with a more consistent run of positive results on the pitch.