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Starting XI: A team comprised entirely of Welsh former Sunderland players - who makes the grade?

Some light reading for you on this fine Sunday afternoon - here’s a starting eleven entirely comprised of ex-Sunderland players from Wales! (Let us know if you think we’ve missed anyone obvious out...)

International Friendly: Northern Ireland v Wales Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

GK: Tony Norman

Joining the Lads in 1988, Norman was a record signing for the club at the time and went on to make almost 200 appearances on Wearside, whilst racking up an FA Cup Final appearance and a promotion.

The hottest competition for a place in this side came in the goalkeeping department, fighting off the ever reliable Darren Ward and competent understudy Andy Marriott, but big Tony is without doubt the best Welsh stopper the club has had and rightly takes the number one slot.

Chronicle Live

RB: Adam Matthews

A regular in the Sunderland back four, the current number two makes it into our Welsh eleven with ease, with only Gareth Hall (shudder) giving him an competition at full back.

Although born in Swansea, he graduated through the Cardiff City youth system and found his way to Wearside via Celtic and, although it took him a couple seasons to get there, he’s now an important member of the first team squad and will hopefully sign a new deal to extend his stay at the club.

He’s also - just to hammer home some stereotypes - a fabulous singer according to Luke O’Nien. Sign of a true Welshman.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

CB: Andy Melville

Nicknamed ‘Mary’, the Swansea born centre-back was part of two promotion winning defensive partnerships during his six seasons on Wearside - including 1999’s record breaking Championship win.

Originally signed by Terry Butcher, Melville’s true talent really come to the fore when Peter Reid took over in 1995, pairing him with cult-hero Richard Ord to form part of his 1996 promotion winning team, and coincidentally, his first choice pairing in the Premiership.

Despite dropping out of the first team picture with the arrival of Jody Craddock, Melville fought his way back into the team in 1998, winning the league in 98/99, before leaving for Fulham in the summer when his contract expired, departing Wearside with two Division One winners medals under his belt.

Andrew Melville of Oxford United

CB: Lewin Nyatanga

When it comes to former Sunderland players, Lewin Nyatanga is placed firmly in the forgettable column due to his largely unremarkable loan spell in 2006. However, when it comes to Wales, he’s an individual of some intrigue.

He’s still currently the youngest ever captain of a Welsh U21 side and, at the time, was the youngest ever debutant for the national team when he lined up against Paraguay in 2006 aged just 17 years and 195 days.

Seen as a leading light in Welsh football alongside the likes of Gareth Bale, the defender had a dramatic fall from grace following the end of his loan move and following a nomadic career, he retired aged just 29. He currently enjoys success as a personal trainer.

Wales v Norway Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

LB: Danny Collins

Despite being touted as Brazil’s next number nine following the retirement of Ronaldo, Chester-born Collins gave his footballing allegiance to the Welsh national side.

Signed originally as a centre-back by Mick McCarthy, the cult-hero made his name under Roy Keane in the left back position during our breathtaking run to the Championship title, and later earned the title of Player of the Year in 2008.

He captained Sunderland for a period under Steve Bruce and is, quite rightly, fondly remembered on Wearside as player who was part of the Keane revolution and a key cog in the team that established us in the Premier League following our promotion.

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

CM: Carl Robinson

‘Robbo’ was an unfashionable but hugely important function in Mick McCarthy’s title winning side of 2005.

Keeping things tidy in the middle, Robinson simply sat in-front of the back four and made sure the ball was distributed to the likes of Julio Arca on the wings.

Whilst more widely known for his defensive duties, he is perhaps best remembered for his winning goal at Elland Road in front of the Sky TV cameras on a cold Friday night in Yorkshire.

Leeds United v Sunderland Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

CM: John Cornforth

Despite being born in Whitley Bay, midfielder Cornforth qualified for the Welsh national side via his Grandmother, who was born in Llantrisant.

Cornforth began his career at Roker Park as a youth teamer in 1985, is perhaps best known for his performance in a 4-2 over York City, where he netted a brace from midfield, sandwiched between strikes from Marco Gabbiadini and Eric Gates.

A neat passer, his was perhaps a little slow and struggled to get in the side once we started climbing the leagues with Denis Smith and was sold to Swansea City in 1991.

CM: David Vaughan

Immortalized by his late screamer past Rob Elliot in the famous St. James derby victory of 2013, the little midfielder has been turning out for his national side since his teen years at Crewe Alexandra, winning 41 caps since 2003.

Vaughan was as good a passer of the ball as we’ve seen on Wearside in recent years but was often let down by a injury, inconsistency and the almost immediate loss of the manager who brought him in, Steve Bruce. Still, cheers for making my head explode in the God’s at St. James six or so years ago, Davey lad.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

RW: Jonny Williams

Aw, wee Jonny. I can’t help but produce a pet lip whenever I mention his name these days after his sad, but honest, portrayal of a footballer that was let down consistency by his body during Netflix’s Sunderland Till I Die.

In truth, Williams was a tidy little player who, when his body allowed him, showed glimpses of the quality that saw him become so highly rated at Premier League Crystal Palace.

Part of Chris Coleman’s Euro 2016 Wales squad, he now finds himself at League One rivals Charlton Atheltic, whilst Wearside wonders if he ever did adopt a dog.

Sunderland Echo

LW: Colin Pascoe

Now you mention it, where the hell is Colin Pascoe? Is he joining Brendan Rodgers at Leicester City? Perhaps he’s involved in youth development? *searches Wikipedia*:

“In January 2018, Pascoe was seen selling knee-high socks and slip on sandals on the entry to Knutsford.” - hang on, what?

So... although now in the knee-high sock trade, Pascoe was a pretty tidy player for the Lads, scoring 22-goals across five years at Roker Park before returning to his homeland, signing for Swansea City in 1993.

English Football Retro TV

CF: Trevor Ford

Another of our Welsh contingent that was born in Swansea, Trevor Ford was a prolific as they come in a red and white shirt, smashing in 67 goals in 108 games for the Lads during 1950 until 1953.

Signing for a British transfer record fee of £30k, he enjoyed a fruitful partnership alongside Wearside legend Len Shackleton on the pitch, however legend has it that they were far from best friends off it, and considered even enemies in some part. Ford allegedly believed that Shackleton’s “showboating” was a deliberate attempt to ignore him on the pitch.

Ford eventually refused to play if Shackelton was on the same field, and after being “rested” for a game against Aston Villa, the striker put in a transfer request and departed for Cardiff City shortly afterwards.

Mark Metcalfe, Fighting Talk

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