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The Roker Report Draft: Best XI - vote for your favourite Sunderland starting eleven!

After twelve rounds of drafting, our eight competitors have put together a starting eleven and manager of people from Sunderland’s past that they feel is the best. Which side are you going to vote for?

Sunderland v Shrewsbury Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


Who has put together the best team?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    (37 votes)
  • 12%
    Matty Crichton
    (23 votes)
  • 5%
    Chris Camm
    (10 votes)
  • 8%
    Danny Roberts
    (15 votes)
  • 1%
    Michael Graham
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Rebecca Johnson
    (6 votes)
  • 30%
    Chris Wynn
    (55 votes)
  • 17%
    Tom Albrighton
    (31 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now


Manager: Bob Stokoe

Formation: 4-3-2-1

Line Up: Jimmy Montgomery; Dick Malone, Kevin Ball, Shaun Elliott, Micky Gray; Ian Porterfield, Bobby Kerr, Stan Anderson; Raich Carter, Len Shackleton; Gary Rowell.

Every single player in my team is a bona fide Sunderland legend, Hall of Famer, and all-time great. For that reason alone I feel that people should vote for me.

Led by Bob Stokoe - Sunderland’s most famous manager, who has a statue outside of the Stadium of Light, such is his prestige - this is the ultimately collection of talented Sunderland players, and what a team. Can you imagine what sort of damage that this side could do to any of the great teams from down the years?

Jimmy Montgomery - Sunderland’s greatest goalie, joined by his 1973 FA Cup heroes Dick Malone, Bobby Kerr and goalscoring legend Ian Porterfield.

Raich Carter, the born and bred mackem who captained Sunderland to league and FA Cup wins; Len Shackleton, the ‘Clown Prince of Soccer’, Gary Rowell - the greatest mag slayer to have walked the earth and the boyhood hero of many Sunderland supporters; ‘Mr Sunderland’ Kevin Ball partnered by one of the finest defenders to have ever played for the club in Shaun Elliott, and Micky Gray on the left who, in his many years at the club, provided countless assists and played for England.

It’s a functional, hard-working team littered with quality, talented players.

Vote for mine! You know it makes sense.

Gav’s team

Chris Camm

Manager: Peter Reid

Formation: 4-4-2

Line Up: Vito Mannone; Phil Bardsley, Danny Collins, Terry Butcher, Julio Arca; Allan Johnston, Jan Kirchhoff, Alex Rae, Jordan Henderson; Fabio Borini, Jermaine Defoe

My team has quality and players that left their mark on our great club from top to bottom. From the penalty saving heroics of my goalkeeper, the never say die attitude of Phil Bardsley, the defensive class of my centre backs and the sort of talent that forces you out of your seat in Julio Arca I have the defence well sorted.

In midfield you’re looking at a man who just oozes class in big Jan Kirchoff, the engine of Alex Rae, the supreme quality on the wing of Allan Johnston and the future Champions League winnery-ness of Jordan Henderson. Finally up top you have the man for the big occasion in Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe who, need I say more?

The ability that all of these players demonstrated while at Sunderland speaks for itself but what matters even more are the memories that they left us. Magical goals against the mags, numerous table-topping promotion seasons, miraculous escapes and a magical cup run. If you cut together a highlight package of my team’s finest moments in a Sunderland shirt then you wouldn’t need anything else to do while you self isolate other than watch it over and over and over again.

Michael Graham

Manager: Sam Allardyce

Formation: 3-4-1-2

Line Up: Norman; Hurley, Bould, Evans; Makin, Venison, Hutchison, Rose; Brady; Cissé, Bridges

I really couldn’t be happier with my side. I’ve tried to avoid names from the distant past and stuck with players we watched and know could cope with the demands of top class modern football. While others have tried to play fantasy football and just thrown some random names together, I’ve tried to craft a functional team.

I tried to create a team for a manager, picking players I knew would thrive under Sam Allardyce.

There is huge strength in my back three, where Charlie Hurley’s physically is married with the experience and leadership of Steve Bould and you legs and intelligence of Jonny Evans. I can’t image they’d allow many shots, but Tony Norman, an exceptional shot-stopper, would provide a formidable final barrier for those that did get through.

In midfield, Barry Venison’s dependability compliments Don Hutchison’s running power and goal threat, freeing him up to get himself into the box. The pair also provide a north east heartbeat to the side.

Up front, the pace and incision of Djibril Cissé adds a threat to any defence, and it’s often forgotten that the Michael Bridges we sold to Leeds immediately hit 19 Premier League goals that season after he left. He was a quality touch and movement striker who would work very well with Cissé whilst also adding to the local core.

The wing backs would be Chris Makin and Danny Rose, two players who did it in the Premier League for Sunderland and were both supremely dependable.

All that was lacking was some maverick creative raw sheer talent, and anyone who saw Kieron Brady knows that’s exactly what he was. Denis Smith said he was the most talented player he ever managed, comparing his talent to Paul Gascoigne and George Best levels. Michael Gray, who played in the best Sunderland team most of us have seen, says he’s the most talented player he trained with. Sam Allardyce’s man-management could’ve calmed his wayward ways.

That team, managed and set-up my Allardyce, would be practically impossible to score against yet capable of scoring goals, and with Hurley, Bould, and Hutchison they’d have been outstanding at set-pieces too.

All in all, an absolutely formidable Sunderland side for any era.

Chris Wynn

Manager: Johnny Cochrane

Formation: 4-4-2

Line Up: Chris Turner; Cecil Irwin, Colin Todd, Dave Watson, Nick Pickering; Billy Hughes, Paul Bracewell, Stefan Schwarz; Dennis Tueart, Bobby Gurney; Brian Clough.

What a side. Simply not a weak link in that XI. None of this nonsense of including a loan signing or someone who played a handful of games just before their 50th birthday, this is a list of Sunderland legends with an average of 7 years at the club.

Led as well by Johnny Cochrane who in three consecutive years finished runners-up, then won the league championship followed by the FA Cup. If that doesn’t make him a legend I’m not sure what will.

The combinations throughout the team are mouth watering, Colin Todd and Dave Watson at the back, Schwarz and Bracewell in the middle, class down either flanks that include both wide men from the FA Cup win in 1973 and lastly my forward line of the clubs top scorer of all time in Bobby Gurney combining with Brian Clough.

With all but two being full internationals, this team oozes with class and more importantly for a Sunderland side it’s also tough and has a bite to it.

This team would give anybody a game - and I suspect would come out on top. Just imagine this team in action for a moment... now explain to me how it doesn’t get your vote?!

Rebecca Johnson

Manager: Roy Keane


Line-up: Jordan Pickford, Gary Bennett, Kevin Killbane, Dariusz Kubicki, John MacPhail, Seb Larsson, Nicky Summerbee, Gordon Armstrong, George Mulhall, Charlie Buchan, Marco Gabbadini

Look at my side and all you see are Sunderland legends littered throughout. My team deserves to win the greatest Sunderland XI competition for its slick mixture of players from all across our club’s history. Whilst some people have only really focused on players from our most recent history, I’ve taken into account a wide range of underrated greats and big names. I’m not short on local lads like Jordan Pickford and Charlie Buchan and I’ve got some great cult heroes in there like Benno and Armstrong.

With Roy Keane in charge of this side, we’ve got a solid back pairing of McPhail and Bennett in front of Pickford, a line-up that would terrify any opposition forwards. In the middle of the park we’ve got Larsson and Armstrong grafting with their tireless energy and providing the opportunity to score. Summerbee and Mulhall running down the wings punting in balls and scoring their own, before reaching an up-front duo of Gabbadini and Buchan, who have 283 goals between them for the lads.

This is a side where goals can come from all over the pitch, from McPhail’s penalties to Buchan’s quality up front, whilst also having the ability to successfully defend from the opposition.

This is a side which has quality from all across our club’s history and would be an intimidating side for any team to face.

Danny Roberts

Manager: Gus Poyet

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Line Up: Thomas Sorensen; John Kay, Emerson Thome, Younes Kaboul, Joe Bolton; Gavin McCann, Claudio Reyna, Steed Malbranque; Chris Waddle, Danny Welbeck; Niall Quinn (c).

Looking at my side, and I genuinely think I have one the best formed teams in this competition. It’s packed full of Sunderland legends and combines them with a cohesive team that would complement each other well.

Starting with Tommy Sorensen in net, you already know the team will be hard to score against. But combine that with a back four of total hard men, who aren’t slow either, and you know you’re on to a winner!

The sitting midfielders bounce off each other well, with McCann as the engine in the middle, cleaning up and doing the dirty work to allow Reyna the space and time spray passes into those key areas. Both midfielders played at a significantly high level for Sunderland and looked impressive while doing it.

Ahead of them, behind the striker in the 10 role, I have Steed Malbranque. And what a player he was! With a low centre of gravity, he breezed passed opponents easily and his deft touches and passes produced numerous goalscoring opportunities. If you delve through the archives, I challenge you to find a better creative midfielder to play for Sunderland... you’ll struggle.

And as you move on to the Malbranque will be teeing off, you can just see the goals already. Chris Waddle was one of the greatest English wingers. While not blessed with pace, his trickery and dribbling skills made him unplayable at times. Danny Welbeck offers the pace for the attack. Potentially under appreciated by the Arsenal’s and Manchester United’s, but there’s a reason why he’s spent the majority of his career at the two biggest clubs in England. He can create on the wings, get into the box and score with either foot and his head, and his pace can really harm defences. A really strong player to have on the left of your attack.

Then there’s the captain. One of Sunderland’s biggest legends, if not the biggest. Niall Quinn. I don’t have explain to any Mackem how good Quinny was. He could hold the line, his heading is one of the best we’ll ever see from a player at the club, and surprisingly for a big man, he could definitely craft out opportunities for himself.

Overall - my team is tremendous. But shore up my chances of victory, I have Gus Poyet as manager, and he can produce miracles from Sunderland teams!

Tom Albrighton

Manager: James Fowler

Formation: 3-2-3-2 or something. I squeezed a few in.

Line Up: Simon Mignolet, Marcos Alonso, John O’Shea, Lamine Kone, Lee Barry Cattermole (c), Yann M’Vila, Emmanuele Giaccherini, Wahbi Khazri, Patrick Van Aanholt, Kevin Phillips, Asamoah Gyan

Trying to sell this team to our esteemed readers would be like trying to sell ice to the Eskimos, it’s utterly pointless.

From the outset its clear to see this side is dripping with quality everywhere you look (almost). Mignolet was one of our most reliable keepers for a long time and whilst not acrobatic or flashy, Simon always got the job done. My back 3 is a little more exotic, each player bringing to the side a different quality - Kone with his strength and fully committed approach, O’Shea’s wealth of experience at the top of the British and European game and Alonso bringing a touch of flair and some dashingly good looks. You really can’t say fairer than that.

In the middle its a different story, it’s a two man wrecking ball. Lee Cattermole is well documented as a classic northern hard man, with Yann M’Vila equally as uncompromising. Both do have their class though, nobody can deny M’Vila’s eye for a quality pass and whilst most midfielders of a certain age regress into a deeper lying role, Lee Cattermole had one final reinvention of himself in a Sunderland shirt, turning himself into a dynamic, goalscoring midfielder.

Out wide we have pace, we have directness and a man who turned corners into free kicks. Van Aanholt was always a left winger in waiting so naturally I’m willing to give him his shot whilst Khazri, he’s on corners and dead balls. Giaccherini completes the attacking midfield three whish his low centre of gravity, velcro like first touch and ability to find the onion bag - all things he never really exhibited at Sunderland sadly.

Finally, up top. If it all goes wrong, at least we’ll get a song and dance out of it. Gyan wasnt the most deadly but he was almost always a threat up the top end of the pitch. When it comes to Super Kev, he needs no introduction, no reasoning and there is simply no debate - I have selected Sunderland’s greatest ever player.

Finally to round it off, I picked James Fowler because I needed to keep the banter era going somehow. So go vote for me if you like, it’s a steady mid-table side with an odd cup run it it - a pipedream for the Sunderland fan of today. Or don’t, I’m not arsed.

Albrighton’s wizards

Matthew Crichton

Manager: Dick Advocaat

Formation: 3-4-1-2

Line Up: Craig Gordon; John Mensah, Wes Brown, Nedum Onuoha; Ahmed Elmohamady, Lorik Cana (C), Bolo Zenden, Kieran Richardson; Stephané Sessegnon; Kenwyne Jones, Darren Bent.

This team is entirely from the Steve Bruce era, but with an upgraded manager and more modern system.

Although many of my colleagues went for cult heroes or club legends, I attempted to build a team of players from my favourite period of watching Sunderland... when we actually had stability in mid-table and were Europa League candidates.

Starting with the forwards, excluding the obvious candidates of Quinn and Phillips and recently Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent is one of the most consistent goal scorers Sunderland have had in the PL period. Combine that with the athleticism of Kenwyne Jones and the speed/trickery with Stephane Sessegnon, I think that is dangerous attack!

In midfield, excluding Elmo who was my 3rd choice (I should of picked Yedlin/Lens instead), my selections are highly experienced and reliable. Cana is the holding battler whilst Zenden adds creativity, on the left you can already imagine how dangerous Richardson would be bombing up to fire venomous shots and crosses.

Moving to the defence, acknowledging I would need a dependable substitute centre-back and goalkeeper, all four of these players were effective for Sunderland during their spells. All three CBs are great in the air, with Mensah and Onuoha supporting the slightly slower Brown for pace. In Craig Gordon the team has a highly dependable shot stopper.

Overall, in this group of players’ best spells with Sunderland, I think this is a solid top ten team, well experienced with pace and power going forward. Up top I have reliable goal scorers - the front three would get 35-40 easily a season I think!

The others wrote my team off before the vote, so vote for me simply to cause havoc!

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