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The Roker Report Draft: Best Sunderland XI - Round One and Two!

Our eight competitors are out the gates: the race is now on for them to create the most formidable side Sunderland has ever known! Have a look at who they’ve chosen in the first two rounds...

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Round One

#1 - Tom Albrighton - Kevin Phillips

The easiest call you’ll ever have to make is including Kevin Phillips in your lineup; an absolute legend when it comes to Sunderland and by far one of the most talented players to ever don red and white. Deadly in front of goal, Phillips always knew where the onion bag was, proven by his impressive record for the Lads: 113 goals in 208 games, including everything from tap-ins, volleys and THAT goal against the Mags.

Super Kev is a no-brainer to lead the line.

#2 - Michael Graham - Charlie Hurley

When you’re building a new kingdom, you’re going to need a king. Great teams are built from the back and he’s the best we’ve ever had.

#3 - Gav - Jimmy Montgomery

All good teams must have a top class goalkeeper manning the penalty box and, with so few ‘top class’ options to choose from, I felt it was important that I got in ahead of the rest to secure Monty. He’s our all-time leading appearance-maker and he was of course a huge reason why Sunderland walked away from Wembley with the FA Cup trophy in 1973. His fantastic double save preserved Sunderland’s lead and kept Bob Stokoe’s side on their path towards victory.

Jimmy Montgomery Photo by County Photos/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

#4 - Rebecca Johnson - Jordan Pickford

I thought the best thing to do first in the draft was to get a decent goalkeeper in. A good goalkeeper can make or break a team, and after Gav pinched Monty, I went to my second choice - Pickford.

That final season in the Premier League before relegation wasn’t an easy watch a lot of the time but, as a former goalkeeper myself, watching Pickford’s athleticism and madcap saves was one of the few pleasant moments of watching Sunderland that season. He saved our goal difference from being a lot worse and is probably one of the best keepers we’ve seen at our club. His presence was sorely missed for the next couple of campaigns with the likes of Jason Steele and Lee Camp doing something vaguely resembling goalkeeping between the sticks.

#5 - Chris Wynn - Brian Clough

The best striker I’ve seen in a red and white strip went in the first pick, then Charlie Hurley and Monty went immediately after, so my first thought was to make sure my team had goals.

With that in mind, what better person to pick than the second most prolific striker in Sunderland’s history behind Dave Halliday? ‘Why not just pick Halliday?’ You may ask. Well, because it’s Brian Clough with 63 goals in 73 appearances. That’s why not.

Bringing in a bit of swagger to the team (and always having the potential to take over my team as manager at some point) I’m proud to have Brian Clough as the first name on my teamsheet.

Soccer - League Division Two - Chelsea v Sunderland - Stamford Bridge Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

#6 - Matthew Crichton - Stephané Sessegnon

Many of my colleagues were surprised by this choice, but the ex-PSG man is probably the best Sunderland attacking midfielder I have seen during my lifetime. If you plan to play a number ten, who better than Sessegnon during the Premier League era?

The Benin international possessed sublime dribbling ability and he knew where the net was, as seen in his cracking derby goal at St. James Park under Paolo Di Canio. During his tenure on Wearside, he scored 18 goals and assisted 20 in 97 games, equivalent to a goal or an assist every 2.5 matches - nothing spectacular but remember it was in a mid-table team at best.

He is no club legend or hero, but in terms of quality for the position I need, there is no better CAM that I have watched in a Sunderland shirt.

#7 - Danny Roberts - Niall Quinn

The key player for my desired system. The initial plan, dotted quickly down on a note pad, is to have a big man up top, a couple of mobile wingers alongside him and a creative spark in the centre spraying passes around.

Looking at my thorough action plan for this draft, there’s not many players who fit the bill for that big man. Kenwyne Jones was an interesting option, but after that, the options are scarce: Tore Andre Flo, Kevin Kyle and Steven Fletcher are a dire set of other viable options.

So... I have to strike early and get our Irish legend as my number one pick. Niall Quinn had everything, didn’t he? He could hold it up, his heading was terrific and, for a big man, his feet and mobility was tremendous. Not only will he be a threat in the box for crosses, he’ll create chances for the inside forwards/wingers and make the odd opportunity for himself.

The quintessential man for the sole striker role.

S’land v Man Utd - 9 Photo by John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

#8 - Chris Camm - Jermain Defoe

I can’t believe he’s slipped to 8th in the draft. I want the best players available early on and there’s no doubt that Defoe was one of the best to ever wear the red and white shirt. He was a goal scorer who inspired the fans on Wearside like few have for many many years.

He scored a goal against the mags that will be replayed over and over again for decades to come and he had a special relationship with Bradley Lowery that highlighted everything that is great about our club. He’s an icon at the Stadium of Light and brings automatic goals to the team - easy choice.

Round Two

#9 - Chris Camm - Jordan Henderson

Sunderland born and raised, energetic midfielder, leader and somebody you know his manager can always rely on. While at Sunderland he was effective out wide (as well as in his now familiar central role) and is going to add quality and steel to my team. Henderson is a natural winner too, as demonstrated by his captaincy at Liverpool, not to mention the fact that he is one of the first names on Gareth Southgate’s team sheet for England.

Another simple pick I reckon.

#10 - Danny Roberts - Tommy Sorensen

Like Gav and Rebecca, I think it’s crucial to get one of Sunderland’s finest goalkeepers into my team early, especially when there’s so few to choose from! On the notepad, I had two top main goalkeepers choices jotted down who I was 50/50 on: Tommy and Craig Gordon.

Both were fantastic number ones for us, but I have such a soft spot for Sorensen. I grew up with that Peter Reid side and our Dane was amazing. He went on to have an established Premier League career, playing for over a decade in the top flight for us, Aston Villa and Stoke and I think it’s fair to say he is one of Sunderland’s best goalkeepers in the club’s entire history.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Bolton Wanderers v Sunderland Photo by Tom Honan/EMPICS via Getty Images

#11 - Matthew Crichton - Darren Bent

Lets face it: if you want to be a successful football club you need a goal scorer - who better (other than Super Kev) than Darren Bent?

In his sole full season at Sunderland, Bent was simply unstoppable; he scored 24 Premier League goals in a team that finished 13th, finishing above the likes of Fernando Torres and Carlos Tevez in their prime.

He may be a controversial figure, but his talent was undeniable. He possessed quality pace, supreme positioning and his finishing was sublime. Love him or hate him, you’d want peak Darren Bent in your team!

#12 - Chris Wynn - Chris Turner

Seeing Monty, Pickford and Sorensen get signed up in the first eleven picks made me decide to get a safe pair of hands as soon as possible. Despite the likes of Johnny Mapson and Ned Doig still being available, two of my favourite players for Sunderland have always been Chris Turner and Tony Norman - my choice was between these two.

In the end it came down to the fact Turner was our first choice keeper in the top flight from 1979 until 1985 and his performances, in that time at the top level, not only resulted in a deserved move to Manchester United, but also meant he pipped Norman by a nose. Clean sheets are now on the agenda by adding a top keeper to my XI.

#13 - Rebecca Johnson - Gary Bennett

I was a bit stuck on the next decision, on one hand I wanted to ensure my strike force was going to be half-decent whilst also making the back-line resolute. Quality centre-halves are extremely hard to find so I had my fingers crossed that no one would take Gary Bennett.

Fortunately, I got him. A proper through and through centre-half and a club legend, Benno is the leader I want at the back. He made 369 appearances for Sunderland between 1984-1995 and scored 23 goals for the club. Bennett is a must for my side!

FA CUP REPLAY Soccer Photo by Tony Marshall/EMPICS via Getty Images

#14 - Gav - Kevin Ball

I want leaders right throughout my team and I can’t think of anybody finer than Kevin Ball to lead this Sunderland side out to victory - at centre half.

He’s ruthless, tough, afraid of nothing and will kick and head absolutely anything that comes his way... including the opposition players.

#15 - Michael Graham - Michael Bridges

Perhaps a surprise choice for so early, but Bridges left Sunderland to immediately score 19 Premier League goals. He was quality before the injuries and a core of local talent is key to any great Sunderland side.

#16 - Tom Albrighton - Simon Mignolet

When it comes to a good side, you need a decent keeper. Even at this early stage, all my choices were taken until I remembered this multi-lingual genius. Mignolet was a goalkeeping dream for Sunderland - ever dependable, a great communicator and most importantly for us a great shot stopper. Mignolet may be an underwhelming name amongst some well-esteemed company but let us not forget his form at the Lads earned Simon a move to one of the most famous clubs on earth.



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