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Top 50 Sunderland players of the past 25 years (Part One): One current player... and a Mag?

Six defenders, five midfielders, two forwards and a goalkeeper make up part one of SAFC’s greatest fifty players of the last quarter century.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

50. Dean Whitehead

‘Bananaman’, as he became affectionately known, spent five seasons at the Stadium of Light.

Moving to the club from Oxford in 2004, Whitehead was part of two Championship title winning campaigns - one of which he captained us to - whilst he was an important cog in a midfield that helped established us in the Premier League under Roy Keane.

Not the most fashionable name, but Deano was far better than he was given credit for.

West Ham United v Sunderland Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images

49. Lee Cattermole

Catts is approaching his testimonial year, and it’s highly possible that we’ve seen the last of Lee Barry in a red and white shirt. Through everything he’s remained at the club, never shirking responsibility and has gifted us some fantastic memories.

Another that has his detractors, but all-in-all, if Lee does leave this summer, he can leave with his head held high.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

48. Aiden McGeady

One of the most technically gifted players to arrive on Wearside over the past few seasons, the Irishman has shone during some of the darkest times this club has ever seen.

Our player of the year in the term just gone, McGeady has often dragged Jack Ross’s team back into games single-handedly.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

47. Dariusz Kubicki

One of the most reliable full backs you’re likely to come across.

Signed from Aston Villa following a successful loan spell, he played a huge role in keeping the Lads head above water in 1995’s relegation battle before subsequently starring in our title triumph under Peter Reid the following season.

David Beckham

46. Richard Ord

Who needs Cantona when we’ve got Dickie Ord?

Although his Sunderland career came to a premature end, between the years of 1994 and 1997 the Murton-born centre back was by far our best defender - and allegedly on the brink of international recognition at one point.

He also deserves plaudits for one of the best goal celebrations I’ve ever seen at Roker Park, as he ran half the length of the pitch, arms straight to his side in some sort of robotic, fast paced dance following his winner over Grimsby Town in front of the Fulwell End.

Richard Ord

45. Younes Kaboul

Oh how our defence collapsed when this brute of a man moved to Watford for £3.5 million - yes, THREE POINT FIVE MILLION. Cheers, Martin Bain.

The former Spurs captain was classy on the ball, strong in the air and had pace to burn. Some of his mazy runs he’d randomly go on were a sight to behold.

Watching back his run and cross for our third goal against Newcastle, it’s hard to believe he was actually a defender.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

44. Don Goodman

Whilst Kasey Keller may not agree, Big Bad Don was one of the best strikers in the second tier during the mid-90’s and it is a crying shame he never managed to play top-tier football with any club, let alone ourselves.

And though our team at the time wasn’t anything to write home about, Goodman was a prolific striker who’s talent matched the effort he put it on the pitch.

43. Fabio Borini

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and many reading this will remember his second spell with us as being utterly, and rather predictably, dreadful.

The little Italian beauty had such a phenomenal first spell, though, that he fully deserves a place in this list.

His cheeky smile before smashing a penalty past Tim Krul, coupled with the moment he sent us wild at Wembley, means he will remain a part of SAFC folklore for years to come.

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

42. Patrick van Aanholt

I am fully aware this is a controversial pick, but for all his faults PVA was definitely up there as one of the most pacey, exciting full-backs that the club has seen. In fact, he’s still playing Premier League football years after we departed the top tier and has been linked to Manchester United recently.

He did have his defensive frailties - many of them actually - but once Sam Allardyce got hold of him he turned into one of our most important players.

Sunderland v Everton - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

41. Emerson Thome

The South American became our record signing in the summer of 2000 and, despite injury restricting him to only forty-four appearances, he became a much-loved member of Peter Reid’s squad that challenged for Europe at the turn of the century.

He may not have been the silky skilled, bag of tricks Brazilian you dream of signing, but he was a fantastic defender.

Emerson Thome, Neale Barry

40. Martin Smith

The fact Smithy’s nickname was ‘The Son of Pele’ tells you everything you need to know about the raw talent the local lad had.

The attacking midfielder was a breath of fresh air during a period of time that most SAFC fans would care to forget, and was seen as the catalyst that could catapult Sunderland out of the dark period in the mid-90’s.

Sadly for Smith, a combination of injury and failure to gain regular first team football under Peter Reid meant he never reached his full potential at the club, but for his raw talent alone, he makes our top fifty.

39. Ki

Firstly - I know he’s a Mag. Secondly, I know he limped out of the final month of the campaign with injury before recovering miraculously for the summer’s World Cup, but he was pretty bloody good wasn’t he?

Perhaps my bias is creeping in here (I was a BIG fan of the midfielder), but Ki, when on form, was the complete midfielder.

His accuracy and range of passing were pivotal in our League Cup run and our upturn in form under Gus Poyet that season. He was a class act.

Liverpool v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

38. John Mensah

If it wasn’t for his horrific injury troubles, the truth is, John Mensah would have been playing Champions League football for a top, top team.

Unfortunately for the Ghanian, his issues with a shriveled spinal chord severely restricted his game time - but when he was fit, there wasn’t many better.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Premier League Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

37. Alex Rae

Tough in the tackle, a fantastic range of passing and ability to chip in with the odd goal, the Glaswegian was as complete a midfielder as you could hope for.

Joining Peter Reid’s side in our debut Premier League season, it took Rae a little while to get going, but once we moved into the Stadium of Light, Rae became hugely influential.

The tenacious midfielder became a cult hero over his five seasons at Sunderland and is still remembered fondly.

Alex Rae and Jason Euell Getty Images

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