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SAFC XI: Sunderland’s all-time leading Premier League appearance makers - who makes the team?

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They’ve amassed the most Premier League appearances of anyone associated with our beloved club, but what do you make of this team?

Manchester City v Sunderland - Capital One Final Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

GK: Thomas Sorensen

Total PL Apps: 126

The truth is that despite healthy competition from Jordan Pickford, the great Dane was the best and most consistent goalkeeper we had during our Premier League years.

He could claim crosses with ease, make a spectacular save, and even save penalties in huge derby games. Big Tommy was class and remained so for a decade or so after he left the Lads at both Aston Villa and Stoke.

Javier Margas and Thomas Sorensen

RB: Phil Bardsley

Total PL Apps: 174

Another cult-hero is Manchester boy Phil Bardsley, who joined the club from Manchester United back in 2008. Bardsley held down a spot for six seasons, despite countless full-backs being signed to compete with him... and despite Paolo Di Canio’s opinion of him.

He’ll be seen by a generation of Sunderland fans as the man who got us to Wembley and sent 9000 Lads fans crazy in the process, but that goal aside, he was a player who wore his heart on his sleeve and evidently fell in love the with the club.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

CB: John O’Shea (c)

Total PL Apps: 189

Perhaps the most polarising player on the list is also our record Premier League appearance maker. Yes, despite the calls to replace him from sections of the Wearside faithful, ‘Sheasy’ continued to captain the side to countless great escapes before falling foul to the David Moyes era.

Lauded as an ‘absolute professional’ by many of his colleagues and as part of a ‘rotten core’ by others, John O’Shea will forever split opinion on Wearside, but with hundreds of Premier League appearances for the club he gets my captain’s armband in this eleven.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

CB: Jody Craddock

Total PL Apps: 108

A rather surprising name to be appear on this list considering he only played in a total of four seasons in the Premier League for the club, but it is a complete testament to his quality that he played so often.

Well liked by almost everyone at the club, Jody matured into a fabulous Premier League centre half during the 00/01 season.

Brave, classy and pacey, Craddock was a brilliant defender who went on to play in the Premier League on a number of occasions with Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club he left Sunderland to join in 2003.

Luke Chadwick, Jody Craddock

LB: Michael Gray

Total PL Apps: 171

An England international and a local lad, Michael is one of the best players that Sunderland’s youth system has ever produced.

His reaction to missing the all important penalty in the play-off final is also perhaps not given the credit it deserves. The way he used that disappointment to drive him forward, enabling him to play for the national team less than a season later as a second tier player, can not be underestimated.

In his twelve years as a first-teamer at Sunderland, Gray played in a variety of positions but in the Premier League he was most comfortable at left back, so that’s where we’ll stick him.

Michael Gray

RW: Seb Larsson

Total PL Apps: 176

Whilst his set pieces were never quite as good as some in the media would have you believe, when he got them right they were breathtaking - remember that one at Arsenal?

He would run through a brick wall for Sunderland and was part of some fantastic performances over his six seasons on Wearside, including a man of the match performance against Manchester City in the 2014 League Cup final.

Whilst he mostly featured in the centre of the park for Sunderland, we’re sticking him out on the right hand side... hopefully utilising his crossing ability in the best way possible as the main supply line to our elite-level strike force.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

CM: Lee Cattermole

Total PL Apps: 169

The second man on this list who could be described as “polarising”.

He’s certainly not the player he once was as injuries appear to have taken their toll on him, but when he was good, damn he was good. The season he played under Gustavo Poyet was perhaps his best, with the Uruguayan molding him into a key player in the side, as he marshaled the defence in his role in front of the back four.

He’s had huge highs alongside some pretty horrendous lows, but he gets into our midfield here as one of Sunderland’s top Premier League appearance makers.

Norwich City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

CM: Jack Colback

Total PL Apps: 115

Some said he was a better player than Jordan Henderson. Some clubs paid him £50k a week.

He even once got into an England squad - despite this impressive feat, I must admit my surprise that he made more Premier League appearances for us than the likes of Gavin McCann and Stefan Schwarz, meaning he unfortunately finds his way into this side by default.

Colback didn’t do much after he left Sunderland, aside from seemingly being in the perfect spot to see every goal we scored past his new team.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - FA Cup Fourth Round Replay Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

LW: Kieran Richardson

Total PL Apps: 134

A fantastic player on his day who played in every position apart from the nets.

Perhaps best as a number ten, the former Manchester United academy graduate spent the majority of his Wearside career at left-back and is a player who lives on in Wearside folklore for a thunderous free-kick that practically burst the back of the Newcastle net.

The fact he appeared so often is no real surprise such was his natural ability, but he perhaps suffered due to his ability to fill in a number of positions across the park.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Sunderland - Carling Cup Second Round Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

CF: Niall Quinn

Total PL Apps: 129

The one and only.

Goalscorer. Chairman. Manager. Legend. There’ll never be another like Niall.

His first season was blighted by injury and resulted in relegation but, once he regained full fitness, the Irishman went on to do more than just redeem himself, carving out a legacy as a man many called Sir Niall.

His ability to pull balls out of the air with consummate ease and lay them off was only matched by his ability to thunder crosses into the back of the net. Derby winners, record breaking promotions, going in goal during a table-topping clash at Bradford, Wembley headers - we simply don’t have enough room to lavish the praise Quinny deserves as a player, let alone what he did in 2006.

Niall Quinn

CF: Kevin Phillips

Total PL Apps: 139

SuperKev’s partnership with Niall Quinn was frightening and was the electricity that powered the Stadium of Light crowd.

Consistently, he would score 25+ goals and his net-busting would continue to break record after record. No sooner would you hear the commentator say the name “Kevin Phillips” and it would be followed up by the word “goal”.

He was quite simply brilliant, and we still love him dearly.

Kevin Phillips