GK: Shay Given
Controversial? Probably. Worthy of the gloves? Most definitely.
Despite his Mag connections, Given was a teenage sensation at Roker Park in 95/96 as his performances in Peter Reid’s title winning team defied his alleged inexperience. It was obvious how good he would become, even at just 18-years-old.
His only real competition in the squad comes from Keiren Westwood who very nearly sneaked in for playing his part in a derby win, but ultimately we couldn't look past Shay when it comes to the goalkeeping slot.
CB: John O’Shea
‘Sheasy’ is a shoo-in. How could he not be?
He captained us at Wembley and through various great escapes. Yes, he was part of some pretty horrible relegations in the years that followed, but John O’Shea was trusted by every manager he played under for a reason.
He’s our top Premier League appearance maker, a player of the year winner and is highly thought of by many former SAFC players and employees.
CB: Paul Butler
Okay, so he may have been born in Moston, Manchester, but he did turn out for the Republic of Ireland once and that’s makes him Irish, dammit!
‘Butts’ had thighs that looked like they could demolish buildings and he was as tough as old boots. He partnered the likes of Andy Melville and Steve Bould during some of most successful years at the club, and for that he fully deserves to be part of our back three.
CB: Paul McShane
So... yes, we are aware this won’t be a popular choice, but it was a toss up between him and Kenny Cunningham. Looking back, McShane had significantly more comedic value, whilst he also had a really mint debut against Tottenham Hotspur.
Mind you, take out the debut against Spurs and the floppy haired McShane had a pretty torrid time at Sunderland - his performance during a 7-1 defeat at Goodison Park lives long in the memory... for all the wrong reasons.
McShane seemed a nice lad, mind, and I don’t remember enough about Kenny Cunningham to write a paragraph on him.
RM: Aiden McGeady
The ultimate League One boyo - the Irish Lionel Messi and the nightmare of every third tier full-back he’s came up against since our arrival here last summer.
£250,000 (NOT £6m, Bristol Rovers) was all it took to bring one of the most stylish, occasionally unplayable wingers in our recent history - and boy was he worth it. With an excellent work-rate, it’s often forgotten how much he runs his gonads off for the team.
He’s far and wide the most talented player in the entire division.
CM: Liam Miller
Tragically, the former Manchester United midfielder lost his battle with cancer last year, but he is still fondly remembered on Wearside for a host of last minute goals and for his part in helping us to the league title in 2007 where he formed part of the team that established us in the Premier League.
His last minute winner in the top of the table clash against Derby County sparked some wild scenes of celebration that felt almost unthinkable if you rewound the clock a year.
CM: Andy Reid
Edwards crosses it into the box and it falls to...ANDDDDY REEEEEEID!
With a wand of a left foot, the Dubliner was one of the most naturally talented players the Stadium of Light has seen and fully deserves his place in this XI.
Reid made an instant impact on his debut, setting up a Daryl Murphy net-buster via a sublime long-range pass with the outside of his boot that endeared him to the Stadium of Light crowd almost instantly.
The former Spurs man is perhaps best remembered for a six month period under Steve Bruce alongside that all-important 96th minute strike at home to West Ham that helped secure our Premier League survival. Great player.
LM: James McClean
What might have been, eh?
McClean was the leading light of the supposed renaissance of SAFC under the guidance of our new Messiah, Martin O’Neill but, like many Wearside love-stories, it started well yet ultimately burned out before we knew it.
Sparking a superb comeback against Blackburn Rovers on his debut, McClean was linked with a £20m move to Liverpool the following summer, such was his good form.
Then Steve Guppy came in as part of O’Neill’s coaching staff and attempted to make him a more ‘complete’ winger. That, coupled with furor that surrounded ‘poppy-gate’ essentially signalled the end of McLean as a Sunderland player.
Alas, he was still pretty damn good for a season, or so.
CF: David Connolly
What a cracking little player he was - and for stepping up to take that second penalty against Burnley, he will always have the respect of the Sunderland supporters.
Roy Keane’s marquee signing took a little while to get going, but once he did he was a key cog in our Championship winning team and ended the season as our top goalscorer. What’s more, he had a belter of a chant to go with it.
He was perhaps not afforded a fair chance in the Premier League in the years that followed, but nevertheless Connolly walks into this team.
CF: Niall Quinn
Player. Goalscorer. Chairman. Manager.
There’s not much I can say about Sir Niall that hasn’t already been said - he’s a true Sunderland legend that will be remembered forever by every Sunderland supporter.
Described as a “hasbeen” when he signed, Quinny struck up the greatest partnership that the club has ever seen with Kevin Phillips.
Quinn went on to fall in love with the club, and we in turn fell in love with him.
Sir Niall Quinn, you deserve all the good in the world.
CF: Stephen Elliott
Whilst ‘Sleeves’ is remembered best for a derby day screamer, his list of memorable moments whilst wearing a Sunderland shirt is damn impressive - his 90th minute strike at Upton Park to clinch us the title, his acrobatic strike against Wolves, and an absolute smasher in Roy Keane’s first away win at Leeds all immediately spring to mind.
It was such a shame that injury curtailed his second season at the club, or we might not have had to deal with the likes of Jon Stead, Anthony Le Tallec, and Andy Gray.
That season aside, though, Elliott played a huge part in two Championship winning squads and is quite rightly remembered fondly by supporters at the Stadium of Light.