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The Roker Report Draft: Best Sunderland XI - Round Three and Four!

The first two rounds of picks saw SuperKev, Niall Quinn, Kevin Ball, Jimmy Montgomery, Charlie Hurley and Gary Bennett go - which former Sunderland heroes will our participants select in rounds three and four?

Manchester City v Sunderland - Barclays Asia Trophy Final Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Round Three

#17 - Tom Albrighton - Yann M’Vila

I called but Sunderland didn’t answer. Yann M’Vila’s stay was short, but by god was it sweet - he was a general, with all the quality you’d expect from such a well cultured midfielder.

A sketchy past was a burden Yann carried to Sunderland but soon shook off as his performances propelled himself into an almost cult status.

His time at Sunderland went unusually smooth, before the phone call that was never answered - a very fitting end for a man who has caused controversy where ever he went. His replacement was never quite as adored.

#18 - Michael Graham - Jonny Evans

Another who we had just before his peak, and what a peak it was. Jonny Evans reads the game better than any Sunderland centre back I’ve ever seen. A great foil for the physicality of Hurley.

#19 - Gav - Raich Carter

I can’t believe we’re nineteen picks in and nobody else has picked Raich Carter.

He captained and scored in a cup final for Sunderland, when we ran out 3-1 winners at Wembley in the 1937 FA Cup final. He was born in Hendon, he played for England and also captained the Lads to the first division league title in the 1935-36 season.

Frankly, I’m amazed there’s not a statue of the guy somewhere in the town.

He’s going in as part of my attack.

FA Cup Journey Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

#20 - Rebecca Johnson - Marco Gabbiadini

At this point I was worried about my strike force, or lack thereof. Big names like Super Kev, Quinny and Defoe have gone so I went to the next best thing - Marco Gabbadini.

Gabbers was a brilliant goal-scorer - he scored 74 goals in 157 appearances for the lads - and partnered with the right striker, the sky is the limit for this fella.

#21 - Chris Wynn - Stefan Schwarz

With a quality keeper and a top goalscorer in place, my attention now went to getting a solid spine to the team. What better way of doing that than to install one of the classiest players I have ever seen grace a Sunderland strip into the middle of my midfield? So I did exactly that - in the form of Stefan Schwarz.

Uncompromisingly tough with an ability to create things from the middle of the park, Schwarz was instrumental in taking Sunderland to our highest back to back top flight league placings since the 1930’s. A snip at a then club record £4 million when he moved from Benfica - Stefan Schwarz has a pivotal role in my XI.

#22 - Matty Crichton - Craig Gordon

Over the years Sunderland have not been blessed with exceptional goalies so I thought I would snap up the former British record transfer stopper early doors...

The former Scotland number one is one of those footballers who was destined to play at the top level had they not had horrendous luck with injuries. Gordon’s talent was undeniable - his stunning reflex save against Bolton at the Stadium of Light in 2012 was voted as the best ever save in Premier League history.

Unfortunately for the Scot injuries and the emergence of Simon Mignolet did lead to his release, but a fully fit Craig Gordon in his prime would have got in many Premier League teams.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

#23 - Danny Roberts - Steed Malbranque

Steeeeeeeed! Referring to my scruffy notepad with the grand plan scribbled down on, I desperately need that creative midfielder to spray the passes around and let’s be honest, Sunderland haven’t had many of them.

As Lionel Sessi went in the first wave of picks, I have to strike quickly on this pick, just like Niall Quinn. In the initial rounds, I want to pick versatile players, and Steed Malbranque offers me many options in attacking positions.

The diminutive figure was a touch of class for Sunderland. One of the classiest players to ever grace the Stadium of Light pitch. The ball just stuck to his feet like glue and he could create opportunities out of nothing. It still aggravates me that Steve Bruce gave him away, only for him to head to Lyon and play Champions League football for seasons after, but I can get him back for one last time here. An obvious and essential pick!

#24 - Chris Camm - Julio Arca

Julio Arca is my favourite Sunderland player of all time and I took an almighty risk by not taking him in the first two rounds. But he’s here and I’m delighted - Arca was superb during his time on wearside. He travelled here alone from Argentina when he was only young to play for Peter Reid’s side and quickly became a crowd favourite while buying into the city of Sunderland himself. He was selected in two Championship teams of the season, has been our young player of the season and will cause a problem on the left-hand side for whomever he plays against in my team.


Round Four

#25 - Chris Camm - Phil Bardsley

Does anyone else remember Bardsley’s time here really fondly? I know I do, he was a rugged defender, led by example and once knocked Wayne Rooney out. He made 174 appearances for the lads and one of those was that magical semi-final second leg at Old Trafford where he scored a goal as wildly celebrated as any other scored by a Sunderland player. I was going to say he always got up for the Newcastle games as well but actually, he played with that commitment and tenacity every time he stepped onto the pitch. The fact he is still a regular Premier League player at the age of 34 speaks volumes about the man.

#26 - Danny Roberts - Younes Kaboul

After seeing Phil Bardsley and Jonny Evans go already, I’ve changed my plans a little and went for Younes Kaboul. He wasn’t here long, but when he was, he was fantastic for Sunderland. He had pace, power, and he could read the game brilliantly.

His partnership alongside Lamine Kone was a real bright spark under Sam Allardyce, and if anything, made the aforementioned Kone look twice the player he actually was. I’m glad to get a good defender in my team early, and gives me a bit of time to reflect on my options and decide on my next picks, knowing that I have a great spine to work with.

#27 - Matty Crichton - Lorik Cana

Lorik Cana, Lorik Cana, hey hey hey, hard as ****.

A player who was undoubtedly sold too soon, the Albanian was an absolute warrior on the pitch. We talk about Lee Cattermole being a tough tackler, but he was a shadow of the player Cana was.

He jumped for every header, slid for every tackle, and ran for every loose ball as if his life depended on it. On a football pitch you need warriors who set examples and motivate the team, players who look in the face of pressure and smile.

Cana is going in the heart of my midfield as captain.

Manchester United v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

#28 - Chris Wynn - Dave Watson

Completing the spine of my team with my fourth pick I was amazingly able to slot my top choice (after Charlie Hurley) as the linchpin of my back four. Originally signed as a striker, Bob Stokoe converted Watson into a centre back producing one of the best defenders that the club has ever seen.

A vital part of the team that won the FA Cup in 1973, Watson would need to leave for Manchester City and First Division football two years later as we narrowly missed out on promotion. With 65 England caps to his name, Dave Watson would be the first defender down on most teamsheets - so I’m relieved he’s the first one down on mine.

#29 - Rebecca Johnson - Kevin Kilbane

I’ll be honest I panicked here; it was a sheer panic.

I don’t know what came over me and I’m sorry.

#30 - Gav - Gary Rowell

Alongside Raich Carter in my front-line is another Mackem legend - the Lord Gary Rowell himself, a man who lived out the boyhood dream of every single Sunderland supporter when he scored a hattrick for the Lads at St James Park against Newcastle United.

Does it get any better than that?

People still sing his name to this day for a good reason.

Soccer - Sunderland Association Football Club - Photocall - Roker Park Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

#31 - Michael Graham - Steve Bould

Why are people faffing in with flashy attacking talent when there are brilliant defenders to pick? Bould can complete an obscenely good back three, lessening the pressure on the attacking players.

#32 - Tom Albrighton - Lee Cattermole

Old high shorts himself, Lee Barry Cattermole. A Sunderland legend without debate. No nonsense, hard as nails and as committed to the cause as any before him.

During his ten years at Sunderland, Catts was dogged by injury and fell victim to the perpetual managerial merry-go-round more than once.

Ever time he was pegged back, Bazza came back stronger than before. He embodied what it is to be a Sunderland captain and never gave anything less than 100%. There’s nothing like a Bazza reducer at 3:05 on a Saturday afternoon. The perfect partner to M’Vila.