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Top 50 Sunderland players of the past 25 years (Part 2): Champions League winners & cult heroes!

Five defenders, three midfielders and three strikers make up part two as we run down from numbers 36 to 26 in our ‘Top 50 Sunderland players of the past 25 years’ list!

Leicester City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

36. Jody Craddock

Good in the air, good on the floor, the former Cambridge United youth was as classy as they come and was an integral part of the Lads’ defence for six seasons.

During his time at the club Jody won the Division One title and performed admirably alongside a host of centre-backs, most notably Emerson Thome and Darren Williams. He also had a lovely head of hair that waved wonderfully in the Wearside wind.

Emile Heskey and Jody Craddock

35. Phil Bardsley

Whilst Bardo had his detractors (I see you Paolo, scowling, cursing that bottle of tomato sauce), his time on Wearside can’t be described as anything but a success.

The Salford born full-back will be best remembered for scoring the goal that helped us to the League Cup final, but in truth Bardsley was much more than that.

He was a throwback to the old-school right back’s your Dad loved, tough in tackle and left everything on the pitch. Bardo was also a canny goal-threat, such was his love for a 25-year screamer.

Hull City v Sunderland - Barclays Premier League Photo by Tim Keeton/Getty Images

34. Chris Makin

If “shooooot” is not booming in your head as you read this, then you’re obviously too young to remember. Ask your middle-aged mates, they’ll knar.

Another Manchester born right-back, Makin formed part of the most successful side the Stadium of Light have ever seen.

Tough as old boots, his partnership with Nicky Summerbee down the right hand side was every bit as impressive as the famous Gray-Johnston partnership on the left.

Sunderland v Chelsea

33. Jonny Evans

The Northern Irishman joined the Roy Keane revolution as a relatively unknown defender back in January 2007. He formed a formidable partnership with cult-hero Nyron Nosworthy that would help the Lads go on an outstanding run to snatch the promotion at the first time of asking.

He returned to parent club Manchester United with hopes of breaking into their starting eleven. But with Sunderland struggling for form, Sir Alex allowed the youngster to gain more valuable first-team experience exactly a year later and, thanks to Evans’ performances, Sunderland managed to escape relegation with games to spare.

Just like any good Sunderland loanee, though, we ended up not purchasing him on a permanent and spent £14 million on Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney instead. Yipee.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Barclays Premier League Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

32. Asamoah Gyan

The Ghanaian’s love affair with Wearside soured rather quickly when he exited the club after one season. He was a big name and cost big money; however, we cannot deny that when he was on form, he was sheer, unadulterated quality.

His departure left a sour taste in many mouths, and I’m sure he wishes he stayed longer if he’s honest with himself.

Should have, and could have, been higher.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

31. Djibril Cisse

Temperamental and unpredictable maybe, but you couldn’t knock his ability to find the net in the big games.

Signing on loan back in 2008, the acquisition of the former Liverpool superstar really felt like Sunderland were joining the big boys.

Whilst he loan move tailed off a bit at the end, Djib left us with plenty good memories that we hold dear to our heart - unless you’re the kid he smacked flush in the face during an open training session... yeah, that family doesn’t like you very much mate.

Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

30. Carlos Edwards

We spoke earlier about the impact Jonny Evans had on SAFC’s defence during our promotion push under Roy Keane; however, this lovable Trinidadian was the fire power at the opposite end of the pitch.

He was fast as they come and had a right foot like a traction engine. Add in his beaming smile and you’ve got another cult-hero on your hands.

Scored perhaps the best goal the Stadium of Light has ever seen - his speed and directness on the right wing was a sight to behold.

Southampton v Sunderland Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

29. Kenwyne Jones

The Caribbean King will perhaps always be seen as a wasted talent, but his best years came on Wearside where his potential was so very nearly realised.

John Terry commented that Kenwyne was “probably the best in the air in the entire Premier League. He really is that good”. So good in fact that Chelsea’s star-studded dressing room were ”all talking about him afterwards.”.

If David James hadn’t taken him out in a completely meaningless end of season friendly, who know’s how good Jones could have been.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

28. Simon Mignolet

Whilst the Belgian international started off a little shaky after he was thrust into first-team action earlier than expected due to Craig Gordon’s injuries, he left the club as our player of the season following an outstanding final campaign.

Joining originally as a number two, Mig’s form continued to improve during his time on Wearside and nobody was surprised when he made the move to a top-four club.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - FA Cup Third Round Replay Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

27. Seb Larsson

Old blue eyes was a Wearside heartthrob for six seasons, scoring 12 goals in 176 appearances where he also won a Player of the Season award.

Many people point (get it) to his work ethic, but the Swede has plenty more than just the ability to run in his locker. He was strong in the tackle and tidy in possession.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League

26. John O’Shea

I see you there, lurking in the background, muttering under your breath the word “rotten core”. Well stop that, stop it right now.

A great captain, his dressing room influence has been heralded by almost any player he has played alongside.

He may have been with us during our double relegation, but without his influence behind the scenes, we may well have fallen out of the Premier League a lot sooner.

Sunderland v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images