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SAFC XI: Picking Sunderland’s best ever Play-Off team - who would make your side?

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The Lads have had some memorable play-off moments mixed in with all the heartbreak over the years, but what would be our ultimate Sunderland Play-Off starting XI?

Marco Gabbiadini Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images

GK: Tony Norman

With all due respect to Lionel Perez, his save at home to Sheffield United does not gloss over his mistake at Wembley - plus big Tony was a far superior goalkeeper.

The Welshman was our number one during the weird and wonderful play-off campaign of 1990 which saw us keep two clean sheets against the Mags, then produce a terrible performance at Wembley against Swindon Town, succumbing to a 1-0 defeat - before going up anyway because Swindon were very, very naughty boys.

With a derby win and two clean sheets, Norman gets the nod in the nets.

Chronicle Live

RB: John Kay

With all due respect to the likes of Chris Makin and Darren Holloway, the red and white tractor fully deserves his place at full back.

Plus, as much as I love you Chris, that penalty at Wembley was honking.

The cult hero was the perfect player for high pressure games and was another who formed part of a defence that kept two clean sheets against Newcastle in that memorable two legged play-off of 1990.


CB: Jody Craddock

Whilst he didn’t have the best of performances at Wembley, Craddock was as dependable as they come and produced a sterling performance in the memorable second leg play-off at home to Sheffield United, a game which many fans have ingrained in their memories such was the atmosphere and performances of the eleven red and white heroes.

Jody had some tough competition, but not many were as dependable, classy and strong willed as him and he slots in at centre-back.

Dwight Yorke of Blackburn Rovers fends off Jody Craddock Photo by Mike Finn-Kelcey/Getty Images

CB: Gary Bennett

If he wasn’t putting David Speedie through the stands, he was scoring last minute winners against Manchester United. In essence, Benno was great and had an excellent few performances in the 1990 play-offs for us too.

Much like Jody above him, he had plenty competition, including from his own defensive partner John MacPhail, but based on the status Bennett has at the club, he sneaks in to partner Jody Craddock at the back.


LB: Paul Hardyman

Well, it wasn’t going to be Mickey Gray was it?

Paul Hardyman. Missed penalty. John Burridge. Wallop. Hilarious.

Chronicle Live

RM: Nicky Summerbee

The best crosser of a ball Wearside has ever seen had a superb set of games in the 1998 play-off run and, like most of the team that day, was supremely unlucky not to pick up a winners medal at Wembley.

As well as setting up Super Kev’s goal in the semi-final, he also smashed home our fourth goal in Extra Time, before blasting in our opening penalty - and the best one - past Charlton’s Sasa Ilic.

Patrik Berger

DM: Kevin Ball (c)

Mr Sunderland is the only player to have played in two play-off campaigns for the Lads, featuring in the 1990 sort-of-triumph and our heartbreaking 1998 run.

As well as skippering us in the ‘98 play-off final, Bally also hit the most aesthetically pleasing strike we’ve ever scored in the competition away to Sheffield United in 1998, and later scored a superb penalty in our shoot-out heartbreak a week or so later.

Bally takes the number four shirt, and of course, the captaincy.


AM: Chris Maguire

The only player from our current crop to make it into the eleven is The King of Scotland, the little ruffian Chris Maguire.

Whilst the other positions had plenty competition, the centre of midfield - Bally aside - was a little bit sparse in terms of central midfielders that had memorable play-off games.

Yes, the likes of Lee Clark and Alex Rae may have been superior players but that volley against Pompey a couple of weeks ago and his wind-up antics will live long in the memory - especially if we can win on Sunday.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-Off: Second Leg Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

LM: Allan Johnston

Magic was one of the most cultured and skillful wingers in Sunderland’s recent history and it was his opening goal against Sheffield United that took the roof of the Stadium of Light all the way back in 1998.

He also stepped up at Wembley to dispatch his penalty in our pulsating 4-4 draw with Charlton and thus Johnno dribbles his way into this XI.

JPI Media

CF: Niall Quinn

Who has scored the most play-off goals for Sunderland? Well... Sir Niall, of course.

Whereas Quinny, Kevin Phillips and Kevin Kyle tie on two goals each, big Niall did technically score another in the shoot-out, so is therefore our most prolific.

He’s also an absolute legend that every single Mackem loves dearly.

The Northern Echo

CF: Marco Gabbiadini

Ask any Sunderland fan to name their favourite play-off strike and you’ll likely find Marco’s tie-clinching second goal at Castle Greyskull will immediately fall out of their mouth.

Gabbiadini scored some memorable goals for the Lads, but not many of them made five thousand kicking and screaming Geordies throw their toys right out of the pram and march onto the pitch in an attempt to stop the game because we’d killed off their promotion dream. Bless ‘em.

John Anderson and Marco Gabbiadini Photo by Ben Radford/Allsport/Getty Images