Gk - Tim Carter
Tim Carter made his football league debut at the age of 18 for Bristol Rovers in 1985. He went on to establish himself before Denis Smith signed him for Sunderland on Christmas Eve 1987 for an initial £35,000, increasing to £50,000 based on appearances.
Carter spent the majority of his time as cover for Iain Hesford or Tony Norman before joining Hartlepool United in 1992. From Hartlepool United, Carter played for Millwall, Blackpool, Oxford United (reuniting with Denis Smith) and Halifax Town before retiring in 1999.
He returned to Sunderland in the roles of first team and academy coach whilst also holding the position of goalkeeper coach to the Estonia national team, but sadly Carter tragically committed suicide at the age of 40 in 2008.
DEF - Martin Gray
Gray worked his way through the Sunderland ranks after signing as a trainee in 1990, eventually making his debut away to Blackburn Rovers in 1992. A midfielder by trade but was also utilised at full-back and any other position various managers wanted to play him.
He would eventually follow Denis Smith to Oxford United in 1996 going on to make over one hundred appearances at the Manor Ground until 1999. Since retiring after a spell at Darlington, Gray has gone into management taking over the hot seat at Darlington, Oldham Athletic (caretaker) and York City.
DEF - Andy Melville
Melville began his career with Swansea City where he spent his first four years ahead of a move to Oxford United in the summer of 1990 for £275,000. It would be three years before Terry Butcher made a move to sign the Welsh international for an initial fee of £500,000 and also included Anton Rogan in exchange.
Melville would spend a successful six years on Wearside making over 200 appearances. A classy defender on his day, his final season would see him miss only two League games as Sunderland won the second tier with 105 points in 1999.
Spells at Fulham, West Ham United and Nottingham Forest followed Sunderland before retirement in 2005.
DEF - Anton Rogan
One of Denis Smith’s final signings for Sunderland from Celtic for £350,000 in 1991, Rogan would spend two years at Roker Park making almost sixty appearances that included an FA Cup final in 1992.
A year later the Northern Irish international would be part of the deal that saw Andy Melville sign for Sunderland and see him move to Oxford United for two years. Spells at Millwall and Blackpool followed ahead of retirement in 1999.
RM - Chris Maguire
Current player Chris Maguire makes the starting eleven on the right of midfield. He also makes the side courtesy of a spell at Oxford United between 2015 and 2017, scoring seventeen goals in over sixty League appearances.
He scored eight times in League One last season with each one seeming to be a screamer, including a vital goal in the play-off semi-final at the Stadium of Light. We could do with a bit of that again this season.
CM - Dean Whitehead
A bargain signing by Mick McCarthy from Oxford United in June 2004 for only £150,000 via a tribunal, Whitehead would make 200 appearances for the Lads over five years.
He would captain Sunderland to the Championship title under Roy Keane in 2007 whilst also being included in the PFA Team of the Year. A move to Stoke City followed in 2009 for an initial £3 million rising to a possible £5 million and would end his career after spells with Middlesbrough and Huddersfield Town where he is now a coach.
CM – Ray Train
Primarily a midfielder, Train would make 37 appearances during his 12 month stay on Wearside across 1976-77. Signed for £90,000 by Bob Stokoe from Carlisle United after beginning his career with Walsall in the late sixties, he would join Bolton Wanderers for £35,000 after only a year.
After Bolton Wanderers, Train would have spells at Watford, Bournemouth, Oxford United, Northampton Town, Tranmere Rovers before ending his career where he started it at Walsall in 1987.
LM - Craig Russell
Russell would become a fans favourite after making his debut at home to Watford in November 1991, going on to score thirty-four goals in 174 appearances in all competitions until leaving as part of the Nicky Summerbee deal in 1997.
During his time at Manchester City Russell had loan spells at Tranmere Rovers, Port Vale, Darlington and Oxford United before signing permanently for St Johnstone in 2000. Moves to Carlisle United and Darlington followed before retiring in 2005. He is now back at Sunderland as a masseur.
FWD - Marco Gabbiadini
A legend for all Sunderland fans of a certain age, he would score 87 goals in 185 appearances over four years during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Signed by Denis Smith for a bargain £80,000, he would leave Sunderland for £1.8 million to replace Ian Wright at Crystal Palace in 1991.
A move to Derby County followed where his stay included a loan spell at Oxford United in 1997. Gabbiadini joined Stoke City via a move to Panionios in Greece before returning back to UK where he would turn out for York City, Darlington, Northampton Town and Hartlepool United before hanging up his boots in 2004.
FWD - John Byrne
Starting his career at York City under Denis Smith in the early 1980’s, he would end up following his first manager to Sunderland via Queens Park Rangers and Brighton & Hove Albion in 1991.
His time on Wearside only lasted a year but would include an FA Cup final appearance that ended in defeat in 1992 with Byrne missing at least one great opportunity in the first half that would have resulted in him scoring in every round.
A move to Millwall followed and would lead to Denis Smith signing the player for a second time at Oxford United in 1993. Byrne retired in 1996 during his second spell at Brighton & Hove Albion.
FWD - Phil Gray
Signed for £775,000 during Terry Butcher’s summer spending spree of 1993 from Luton Town after beginning his career with Tottenham Hotspur, the Northern Ireland international would score 41 goals in three years for Sunderland.
He would eventually join Oxford United in 2000 via Nancy, Fortuna Sittard, Luton Town and Burnley. After two years at Oxford, Gray would drop into non-League with Chelmsford City, Stevenage Borough and Maidenhead United before retiring in 2005.
Sub Gk – Steve Hardwick
Starting his career at Chesterfield in 1974 he would become Newcastle United’s record transfer paid for a goalkeeper in 1976 at £80,000. He would struggle during his six years at St James Park before moving to Oxford United in 1983 where he would win successive medals as Oxford rose from Division Three to Division One.
It would be 1987 when Hardwick joined Sunderland on loan from Oxford and made seven appearances, where six of these were the opening games of Sunderland’s Third Division title winning side of 1987/88. His only permanent move after Oxford was to join Huddersfield Town in 1988 before retiring in 1991.
Sub - Jerome Sinclair
Working his way through Liverpool’s academy he would eventually play two games for the club before moving to Watford for £4 million in January 2016.
Opportunities have not been forthcoming at Vicarage Road since joining the club and has resulted in brief loan spells with Birmingham City, Sunderland and Oxford United. For the upcoming season Sinclair is on loan at Dutch club VVV-Venlo.
Sub - Billy Whitehurst
An “old school” hard man of football - when Vinnie Jones was asked what it felt like to be the hardest man in football, he replied “I don’t know…ask Billy Whitehurst”.
Signed by Denis Smith for Sunderland in 1988 after seeing his bruised body in a pre-season changing room after an altercation with nightclub bouncers the night before, making Smith decide he was the threat we needed up top, he would end with scoring three goals in eighteen appearances.
Between 1980-1992, Whitehurst would turn out in the colours of Hull City, Newcastle United, Oxford United, Reading, Sheffield United, Stoke City, Doncaster Rovers, Crewe Alexandra as well as a host of non-League clubs before retiring.
Sub - David Rush
Sunderland-born David Rush began his Sunderland career as 18-year-old, coming on to replace John Cornforth in a League Cup tie against Fulham at Roker ending 1-1 in September 1989.
1991-92 saw Rush step up and make a larger contribution to the first team in making twenty-seven starts, these would include important goals on route to the FA Cup final and making the starting XI for the final itself. This would all come for David Rush by the age of 20, and by the age of 27 he would be playing non-league football.
A move to Oxford United in 1994, which would reunite him with Denis Smith and Malcolm Crosby, was relatively successful, scoring 21 in 92 League games. Short periods at York City and Hartlepool United followed before falling out of the game.
In recent years Rush was assistant manager to ex-Sunderland defender Anthony Smith at Gateshead where he would have a spell as caretaker manager before being replaced.