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Ellis Short’s 100+ Sunderland Signings: Part IV - Which player sits at the very top of our list?

Finally, we arrive at the good bit as we rank the best signings made during Ellis Short’s tenure as Sunderland owner. From number 24 all the way to our winner at number 1 - who tops our list?

Sunderland v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

24: Lewis Grabban

Despite being one of the most unlovable players to have grace the Stadium of Light pitch, Grabban was one of the only successful signings last term.

Whilst his character couldn’t face a relegation battle, his 12 goals in six months is a good enough return to jump into our top 25.

23: James McClean

A name that isn’t the most popular for a variety of reasons - the Irish winger was a breath of fresh air when he first arrived on Wearside.

It’s a shame he couldn’t keep that form up, but he’s one of very players Ells Short made a profit on. Into twenty-third place you go, Jimmy.

22: Aiden McGeady

Well, well, well would you look at that. A current player makes it in alongside some of the big boys.

McGeady was cheap and cheerful, but his goals and assists return has been consistent and for just £250k, he’s been a sure-fire bargain.

21: Asamoah Gyan

The Ghanaian’s love affair with Wearside went off as quickly as (sexy like) cheese. He was a big name and cost big money, but that came with plenty of expectation.

He wasn’t bad - far from it - but the way he left left a sour taste in many mouths. Should have, and could have, been higher.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Premier League
The Ghanian could have, and should have, placed higher in our list.
Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images

20: Danny Welbeck

The England international was part of an exciting trio of front-men and would have probably impressed even more at the Stadium of Light had it not been for troublesome injury woes.

Now a fully fledged international, he became a man at Sunderland.

19: John Mensah

“The man was a beast” quoted team-mate Kieran Richardson during his appearance on the RR Podcast last month, and oh boy - he wasn’t wrong!

His second spell here wasn’t as impressive, but he’s still remembered fondly on Wearside - after all, he did coin the phrase ‘left, right and John Mensah’.

18: Ki

So he may play for those lot up the road at the moment, but the South Korean played a huge part in our resurgence under Gus Poyet and - perhaps most importantly - our run to Wembley.

Cool, calm and collected in possession, Ki was class.

17: Vito Mannone

After breaking into the team following an injury to Keiran Westwood, the Italian shot-stopper never looked back, writing himself into SAFC folklore with his penalty save in the League Cup semi-final at Old Trafford.

Part of two great escapes, Vito will always be remembered with a smile.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Capital One Cup Semi-Final: Second Leg
Oh Vito Mannone!
Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

16: Lorik Cana

The Albanian’s arrival felt monumental at the time - a real marquee signing.

Captaining the club for a season before departing due to family issues, Lorik quickly turned into an instant cult hero.

Whilst the second part of the season wasn’t as impressive, the opening plaudits of the 2009/10 season belonged to the aggressive midfielder.

15: Younes Kaboul

Martin Bain. Martin F***ing Bain allowed this man to leave for Watford for zero profit, and broke up the best defensive partnership we’d seen on Wearside in some time.

Younes was a quality center half and his impact under Sam Allardyce was huge. Who can forget his cross for the third in the derby?

14: Jan Kirchhoff

If it wasn’t for some unfortunate injuries, I’d go as far as saying the German was the most cultured midfielder we’ve seen at the Stadium of Light since it opened in 1997.

When fit, der König marshaled the midfield whilst wearing slippers and smoking a pipe.

13: Fabio Borini

Such was the success of his loan spell here under Gus Poyet, we clamoured after him for the best part of a year.

Whilst his return to the club was predictably disastrous, he was terrific the first time around.

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

12: Seb Larsson

The Swede broke hearts on Wearside for six years, scoring 12 goals in 176 appearances and winning a Player of the Season award.

An adopted Mackem, his badge pat in front of the Gallowgate, as well as his last minute winner at home to Blackburn Rovers will be remembered for many a year - and all on a free transfer. Top bloke is Seb.

11: Patrick Van Aanholt

The Dutch left back divided opinion on Wearside, but of all the players on this list, he brought in the biggest net profit (if you’re not sure what that is, ask a Mag) and continues to play Premier League football for Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.

Not the most likable character, you can’t argue he was a bargain at £1.5 million.

10: Bolo Zenden

What a touch of class Boudewijn Zenden really was.

A fantastic club captain, a shining example of how to conduct yourself as a professional footballer, and he possessed quality in abundance.

That goal against Spurs could only have been scored by someone like Bolo.

9. John O’Shea

Another great club captain, the centre back came to us when he was past his prime and, although he was with us during our double relegation, without his influence in the dressing room we may well have fallen out of the Premier League a lot sooner.

Whilst not everyone would agree with the sentiment, John O’Shea was a fine signing and is fully deserving of a top 10 spot. Viva Sheasy.

Everton v Sunderland - Premier League
John O’Shea and Danny Rose sit in 9th and 8th position deservedly.
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

8: Danny Rose

His arrival at the SOL was greeted with minimal fanfare, but fast forward to six years and twenty-five England caps later, nobody on Wearside is surprised at his level of success.

A class act on the pitch, and very much a class act off it, too.

7: Marcos Alonso

“Hahaha f**k the Mags. Sunderland fans! I lurve it”. What a player the Spaniard was.

His departure on Wearside was mourned in almost identical fashion to his predecessor Danny Rose - and his legacy is much the same. He still loves us, and we still love him.

He edges the Tottenham left back by one place since he helped us get to Wembley - sorry Danny.

6: Lee Cattermole

Everyone’s best mate, Lee Barry.

He’s been here almost a decade and had some insane highs and depressing lows, but through it all he’s remained, worked his socks off for the shirt and has gifted us some fantastic memories.

When Cattermole was in his pomp, he was enormous for us.

Watch back his strike on the opening day at West Brom and tell me you don’t love Catts.

5: Yann M’Vila

(Sigh). Our hero. Our time together was wonderful, but far too short. If one of us could have picked you up at the airport and forced David Moyes to produce a contract and place it into your hands, we’d have done it.

You may be at St. Etienne in reality, but you’ll always be a Mackem in our hearts. *sobs*

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League
Yann M’Vila and JD both make the top 5. Of course.
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

4: Stephane Sessegnon

Inconsistent? Yes. Frustrating? Yes. Shoots like he has lead in his boots? Yes. But did he get you off your seat every time he picked up the ball? Yes!

And how much fun was it seeing the Steven Taylor crapping his pants whenever Sess picked up the ball in derby games? So much fun!

As Phil Bardsley said: “you couldn’t take the ball of him in a phonebox”.

3: Simon Mignolet

Seeing the Belgian sit on the bench at Anfield feels like such a waste. Scousers - you don’t deserve the Mig.

It took him a few seasons to really get going and establish himself as the number one, but once he did he was like a brick wall and probably solely responsible in our survival, making incredible saves on a weekly basis.

Jordan Pickford aside, he was the best goalkeeper we had during the Ellis Short years.

2: Darren Bent

Sure, his goal for Burton Albion condemned us to League One, and most of you - if not all - still resent the way in which he left the club. However, we can’t deny he was, at the time, the best out-and-out goal-scorer we’d had since the heady days of Kevin Phillips.

His importance to the side was highlighted when he left the club as we lurched from one crisis to another, scrapping for survival season upon season before eventually falling out of the Premier League.

Even if we don’t like each other anymore, like the scorned ex and the bitter lover, Darren Bent and Sunderland were made for each other.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Premier League
Darren Bent was a bargain for £10m.
Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

1: Jermain Defoe

Who else but JD? A man who the entirety of Sunderland would walk over hot coals for.

A seasoned goalscorer and a huge name, we’d be crying out for someone like Defoe for many, many years and when he eventually came, none of us were left disappointed.

Goal after goal after goal, he never once looked like the “old man” some had warned us we were signing.

But it wasn’t just Jermain’s footballing ability that made us love him - it was the man himself. He just “got” Sunderland AFC, he knew what it meant to us and it meant just as much to him.

The tears at half-time and his relationship with our very own little legend Bradley Lowery amongst countless other moments is why Jermain Defoe is not just Ellis Short’s best ever signing, but a bonafide Sunderland AFC legend.

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