#49 - Tom Albrighton - Marcos Alonso
Gorgeous. Mag Slayer. Enough to get into any Sunderland dream team.
Marcos Alonso should have been picked well before my useless hands got hold of him but here we are. A top quality left back, a magical left foot and sumptuous hair, Alonso really did have it all. A Rolls-Royce of a left back, he was at times a rock in defence.
On the ball it seemed like he had all day on it (even though sometimes he used every second of that), Alonso was everything Sunderland wanted - and needed - at the back. Instead, despite his top quality performances (particularly against Newcastle), the powers that be decided that Alonso wasn’t worth a fee less than £10m despite the fact he was clearly worth as much.
Instead, Chelsea waited six months and paid £20m to have the Spaniard.
#50 - Michael Graham - Danny Rose
With a back three I’m going to need good wing backs, and Rose was brilliant. Another who went on to prove he had the quality for the top.
#51 - Gav - Bob Stokoe
Now we’re over half-way I feel safe enough to pick a manager - and after weighing up several options, I’ve gone for a born legend, Bob Stokoe.
I mean, the man has a statue outside the Stadium of Light, for God’s sake.
Bob is perhaps Sunderland’s most famous manager, and is one of the first people I think of when I close my eyes and think about the club. The scene of him running full pelt across the turf at Wembley in his mac and hat in order to give Jimmy Montgomery a celebratory hug upon the blowing of the final whistle back in 1973 is and was iconic - his efforts in leading a struggling second-division Sunderland side to Wembley, and then winning against the greatest team in the land is something that still earns him praise from not just our supporters, but the wider footballing community to this day.
#52 - Rebecca Johnson - Roy Keane
Midway through picking, I decided I needed a gaffer who won’t be afraid to say what he thinks and will be a domineering, but respected force in the dressing room. It’s safe to say, Keane has those qualities under his belt.
He also takes no nonsense, with one of my favourite ever stories being the time he rang Robbie Savage to potentially sign him for Sunderland, being greeted with Savage’s voicemail. “Hi it’s Robbie-wazzup?” - only for Keane to put the phone down and say, “I can’t be f**king signing that.”
#53 - Chris Wynn - Paul Bracewell
As I was weighing up competition for who I wanted in other areas of the pitch, I only had one choice I wanted to partner Stefan Schwarz in the middle of the park. With 270 appearances in three spells at the club over the course of 14 years, I present to you... Paul Bracewell.
He was vital during two of his three spells in leading Sunderland to promotion to the top flight - elevating fairly average teams to achieve great feats in the process. A biting tackle combined with elegance on the ball, those who witnessed him in a red and white strip knew that Brace was a class act.
At 23-years-old he was one of the best midfield players in the country with 3 England caps to his name already. He then suffered an injury that kept him out for two years, but despite this injury and a multitude of operations - he was still THAT good.
I’m confident not many central midfield combinations on offer will want to mix it with my pair of Stefan Schwarz and Paul Bracewell.
#54 - Matty Crichton - Kieran Richardson
Just for free-kicks... best of luck Shay!
A player who can play in 90% of positions on a football pitch, Kieran Richardson was a fantastic servant to Sunderland AFC.
I think in the modern game where many managers play a three-back with wingbacks, Richardson has both the offensive and defensive qualities to play that role.
He could shoot with venom, possessed great pace and was always bombing forward to support the attack.
He takes the Alexander-Arnold role in the team.
#55 - Danny Roberts - Chris Waddle
I need a winger who has it all, and Chris Waddle certainly fits the bill. Once the third-most expensive player of all time, Waddle was streets above players in his era. He was that good. While his top quality was never actually seen on Wearside, joining Sunderland at the tail end of his career, his quality is undeniable and to have him in my side is a coup!
#56 - Chris Camm - Alex Rae
A key player in Peter Reid’s promotion side, Alex Rae matched his aggression on the pitch with talent and became a firm fan favourite during his time on Wearside. He made 90 appearances and in that time went through a lot with us, if you ever get the chance to hear him talk about his time here then you have to do it.
Another great character in the changing room, another quality addition on the pitch, another easy pick.
#57 - Chris Camm - Fabio Borini
Borini, he could be in here, he’s all alone HE’S SCORED! SENSATION HERE AT WEMBLEY FROM SUNDERLAND AND FABIO BORINI!
That moment is the happiest I’ve ever felt as a Sunderland fan and it was delivered by Fabio Borini. He also provided the winner at the Stadium of Light late on against Newcastle, scored the penalty that ended Jose Mourinho’s undefeated streak at Stamford Bridge, hit a stunning volley at Old Trafford and was my nephew’s favourite player. The last few years in the Premier League didn’t have many bright spots, but he was responsible for many of them.
#58 - Danny Roberts - Joe Bolton
Quality left backs are few and far between in this draft now, so I’m going to delve into the archives and pick up Joe Bolton for the position. The versatile full back, who could play in midfield, had nine seasons on Wearside and amounting 319 appearances for Sunderland.
Bolton is highly regarded by fans who saw him play for the club, and certainly stands up alongside modern era standout left backs such as Danny Rose, Marcos Alonso and Patrick Van Aanholt.
#59 - Matty Crichton - Ahmed Elmohamady
How can I defend myself on this one?
Larsson had been picked, Bardo was gone, who else could I select at right wing back?
So I went with Elmo, who to be honest was not fantastic by any means at Sunderland, but he did a steady job.
Although he is more of a conservative right back these days at Aston Villa, the Egyptian was quite the direct offensive styled winger at Sunderland.
He was great in the air and always put dangerous deliveries into the box, note his excellent assist for Seb Larsson’s wonder goal at Anfield - he would do a job!
#60 - Chris Wynn - Nick Pickering
Completing my left hand side of my team, I’m again amazed to still have the chance to bring in Nick Pickering to bomb forward in support of Dennis Tueart.
Born in South Shields, Pickering came through the ranks to make his debut in 1981 for Sunderland at 18-years-old, and then make his England debut in 1983 at 19-years-old!
Going on to play 209 times in a red and white shirt scoring 18 goals, I’m chuffed to have a local lad who was a cracking player at left-back in my XI.
#61 - Rebecca Johnson - Gordon Armstrong
A lad born on the Tyne supporting the Black Cats, Armstrong firmly established himself as a club legend at Roker Park. A tough, goalscoring midfielder, Armstrong earned the affection he deserved on Wearside.
He made 349 appearances for the Lads, but he’s probably most fondly remembered for his heroics in the 1992 Cup quarter-final against Chelsea. With both sides level and battling it out the game went into extra time. Armstrong was the player who proved decisive, and provided the header for the Lads to progress onto the next stage of the competition.
#62 - Gav - Len Shackleton
‘The Clown Prince of Soccer’, Len Shackleton, goes straight into my attack.
Len is regarded by a certain generation of Sunderland supporters as the most talented footballer ever seen on Wearside. At a time where flair wasn’t fancied, Len did exactly what he wanted on the football pitch and would often embarrass opposition players with his tricks and flicks, much to the delight of the Sunderland supporters who would turn up in their droves at Roker Park just to see him strut his stuff.
Whilst he also played for England and Newcastle, Len spent nine years as a player on Wearside and still to this day is adored for bringing so much joy the fans.
And who can forget what he had to say about our nearest and dearest:
I’ve no bias against Newcastle – I don’t care who beats them!
#63 - Michael Graham - Chris Makin
Not many dynamic Sunderland right backs to choose from, so Makin’s solid dependability will add the next best thing.
#64 - Tom Albrighton - Asamoah Gyan
Baby Jet was signed on the back of being Ghana’s star at the World Cup, normally a recipe for disaster but somehow this wasn’t one of those. Gyan came with the wieght of expectation and duly delivered in his short stay on Wearside.
Maybe more famous for his daft dancing, penchant for the number 3 and that god awful song, Gyan was actually a more than adept performer for Sunderland. With just about all my other striker choices taken, there was no hardship in taking on a man who scored just shy of 1 in 3.