Using the goals per game ratio to make the list, the only rules are that each player must have made a minimum of thirty-five appearances and if two players have the same ratio, the player with the most appearances is higher in the higher position. Also to qualify, they needed to have played for Sunderland from 1980 to the present day.
Here is the countdown of our top ten...
10. Niall Quinn 1996-2002 (Goals per Game = 0.31)
The legend that is Niall Quinn just had to make our top ten scoring 69 goals in 220 appearances. He is surprisingly the only player in our whole top twenty who was also manager and chairman of the club. A £1.3 million signing from Manchester City in 1996 and would have been a bargain at 20 times the price.
9. Marcus Stewart 2002-2005 (Goals per Game = 0.33)
Didn’t quite do the job that Peter Reid brought him in for, which was to score goals in the Premier League, but did a good job to get us back to the Premier League under Mick McCarthy. Signed on the same day as Tore Andre Flo, Stewart scored 39 goals in 119 appearances over three years for Sunderland.
=8. John Byrne 1991-1992 (Goals per Game = 0.35)
Seemed like he was with us for longer, the Republic of Ireland international only made 43 appearances for Sunderland scoring 15 goals. Signed by Denis Smith with the money from the sale of Marco Gabbiadini, Byrne is best remembered for his exploits during our run to the FA Cup final in 1992… as well as his flowing blonde locks, of course.
=8. Josh Maja 2016-2019 (Goals per Game = 0.35)
Wasn’t expecting the youngster to appear so highly on our list but it highlights just how prolific he was for us last season before leaving for France in January. A total haul of 17 goals in 48 appearances for Sunderland puts him on an almost equal footing with Byrne and the same goals per game ratio as a legend…
7. Gary Rowell 1975-1984 (Goals per Game = 0.35)
Perhaps for some, all of the entries in this list should have been Gary Rowell, but he makes it in 7th place as a) he should have his own place but b) his sheer volume of games deserves to stretch clear of the other two. An impressive record of 103 goals in 297 appearances also has Rowell 11th on the list of all time goalscorers for Sunderland.
6. Don Goodman 1991-1994 (Goals per Game = 0.36)
Just missing out on the top five is one my favourite players during the 90’s. Another Denis Smith signing to replace Marco Gabbiadini, Goodman would be a firm favourite with the Roker crowd and would eventually score 47 goals in 132 appearances for Sunderland.
5. Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson 1974-1976, 1979-1981 & 1983-1984 (Goals per Game = 0.37)
Making our list due to his second and third stints at Roker, Robson scored goals wherever he played throughout a distinguished career. Born in Sunderland, he lived the dream and scored regularly for the lads in both spells and finished on an impressive 68 goals in 182 appearances.
4. Jermain Defoe 2015-2017 (Goals per Game = 0.40)
How could we forget Jermain Defoe! I’ll admit it, even though it looked on paper a good deal swapping him for Altidore I wasn’t sure he was up for a relegation battle, how wrong could I be…37 goals in 93 appearances in those struggling teams should be up there as one his greatest achievements in the game. It wasn’t just his goals, he cared, he cried and his bond with Bradley will never be forgotton. Jermain, we salute you and 4th place is well deserved.
3. Marco Gabbiadini 1987-1991 (Goals per Game = 0.47)
It was surely inevitable that Marco makes the top three, scoring goals for fun in the Second & Third Divisions between 1987 & 1990, he’d also manage nine in the First Division in 1990/91 as we were relegated. He would also score a hat-trick in his penultimate game away to Charlton Athletic just to rub salt in the wound when he signed for Crystal Palace less than a week later. His record would read 87 goals in 185 appearances for the lads, that also makes him 13th in the club’s history for total number of goals scored.
2. Kevin Phillips 1997-2003 (Goals per Game = 0.55)
Always number one in my book…but number two in this list, Super Kev was a one off. After scoring in the first ever League game at the Stadium of Light against Manchester City on his debut, everything he touched went into the back of the net for three straight seasons. He would become a legend of the club, and although he had a little help from his strike partner Niall Quinn, Phillips was capable of scoring some spectacular goals. Winner of the Premier League Golden Boot and European Golden Shoe winner (to this day the only Englishman to win the award) in 2000, he had it all, and it was a pleasure to watch. At the end his time at Sunderland, his record would read 130 goals in 235 appearances, which also saw him the clubs 6th all time goalscorer.
1. Darren Bent 2009-2011 (Goals per Game = 0.57)
Our top spot goes to a player who divides opinion, mainly due to the manner of his exit, but one thing that usually isn’t debated is how good Darren Bent was at scoring goals. The team seemed set up with Bent as a focal point to finish off every move and more often than not, it worked. Bizarrely his most famous goal involved a beach ball rather than his usual clinical finishing. His record of 36 goals in 63 appearances makes Darren Bent the most prolific Sunderland goalscorer since 1980.