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Top 50 Sunderland players of the past 25 years (Part 3): Local talent & a current England player

Four midfielders, four left-backs, two wingers, one striker and one ‘keeper make up part three, as we run down 25 to 14 in our ‘Top 50 Sunderland players of the past 25 years’ list!

Gavin McCann celebrates the first goal Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

25. Kieran Richardson

Left back, left wing, central midfield, the number ten role, right wing or up-front - Kieran Richardson could do a job for Sunderland just about anywhere and do it well.

His legacy may be a bullet of a free kick that won one of the best Wear-Tyne derbies in recent memory, but Richardson also had plenty more in his locker.

He was pacey, hard-working and had a great eye for goal.

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

24. Michael Bridges

One of the most talented forwards to play for the Lads after bursting onto the scene as a 17-year-old.

Unfortunately for the youngster, he also came to prominence at the same time a certain Kevin Phillips struck up an outstanding partnership with Niall Quinn.

Despite that, Bridges still managed to play a huge role in our record breaking 105-point season, before moving onto Leeds United, where he enjoyed a hugely successful first season scoring nineteen Premier League goals.

His second spell was disappointing, but a lot of that can be attested to some horrendous luck with injuries.

23. Danny Rose

Rose had a loan spell so impressive on Wearside that he returned to White Hart Lane and immediately became a first team regular and full England international.

A class act on and off the pitch, Rose was one of Spurs’ best players on the park in their unlucky Champions League final defeat last month.

He’s a brilliant player and nobody at SAFC is surprised at his outstanding progress such was his obvious potential shown whilst in the North East.

Aston Villa v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

22. Mickey Gray

The third of four left-backs in today’s edition is local lad Mickey Gray. A terrible penalty taker, but a tremendous player who performed for us 363 times between 1992 and 2004.

Mickey transformed from a tricky winger into one of the best left-backs in the country following that heartbreaking penalty miss, gaining international recognition and captaining the Lads to some of the best campaigns in living memory.

Michael Gray

21. Marcos Alonso

Our love was short Marcos, but we still hold you dear.

His departure on Wearside was mourned in almost identical fashion to his predecessor Danny Rose - and his legacy is much the same.

He still loves us, and we still love him.

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

20. Julio Arca

I’m not sure there will ever be another Julio.

Moving to the other side of the planet with only a bag full of tricks in his suitcase, he immediately embraced the people and the area. He wasn’t just all flair, though, he could stick in tackles Kevin Ball would be proud of... just ask Alan Shearer.

Whilst he was part of that phenomenal Reid era, he didn’t turn his back on us when things went sour either, remaining at the club under Mick McCarthy in the second tier, battling to get the club back into the Premier League.

Julio Arca and Gilberto Photo By Ben Radford/Getty Images

19. Lee Clark

The first real controversial pick, but is it really that controversial or do we just not like him? My guess would be the latter.

For all his Mag ties and idiotic t-shirt behaviour, Clarky was one of the most complete, all round midfielders we have seen at the club.

Lee Clark of Sunderland and Mark Kinsella of Charlton Athletic

18. Claudio Reyna

Purchased from Scottish giants Rangers, the dynamic midfielder was a touch of class and gave Reidy’s side some much needed industry, brains and goals from midfield.

His crowning glory came with an absolutely superb performance at home to Leicester City, in which he scored two fantastic goals.

Had he not suffered a horrible knee injury early into our 19-point season, we may have even put up a more of a fight against relegation.

Sunderland v Leicester X

17. Gavin McCann

The Blackpool-born midfielder had a slow start to life on Wearside, but quickly blossomed into a powerful box-to-box midfielder when we stormed the Premier League in 1999/00.

Full of energy, McCann’s ability to win the ball and distribute effectively allowed the likes of Alex Rae, Stefan Schwarz and Nicky Summerbee to feed the prolific duo of Quinn and Phillips and was a spearhead to our fantastic form in those opening two seasons.

McCann never stopped running and had it not been for a golden generation of English midfielders, he would surely have had more than one cap for his country.

Gavin McCann

16. Nicky Summerbee

David Beckham? You can have him! Give me Nicky Summerbee any day of the week.

Another that was part of that exciting Peter Reid side, the former Manchester City winger moved to Wearside in a swap deal for local boy Craig Russell and never looked back.

Pin point accuracy, Summerbee had a “lazy” look when marshaling that right wing, but the simple truth is he didn’t need to beat his man to put the ball right on Quinny’s head, his crossing accuracy really was THAT good.

Nicky Summerbee

15. Jan Kirchhoff

If he wasn’t made from Wotsits I’d go as far as saying the Munich-born defensive midfielder was the most cultured midfielder we’ve seen at the Stadium of Light since it opened in 1997.

When fit, Kirchhoff was a joy to watch, protecting the defence and dominating the midfield, all whilst wearing slippers and smoking a pipe.

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

14. Thomas Sørensen

Moving to a whole new country at the age of just 21 can be a daunting task - although not if you’re Thomas Sørensen.

Break a clean sheet record, help your club to a league points total record, and make your international debut in your opening season you say? No problem, said Tommy.

As dependable as they come, Tommy was a great shot stopper, brilliant at coming for crosses and not that bad at saving the odd penalty.

Jermain Defoe of West Ham United and Thomas Sorensen of Sunderland Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

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