With pre-season getting underway thanks to the opening friendly being 2-2 draw at Spennymoor Town, we thought we would take a look at some of the random players who have faced Sunderland in pre-season games before they would go on to become household names.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
The Barcelona number one was still at his hometown club of Borussia Monchengladbach when Sunderland turned up for a pre-season friendly in July, 2011.
The German international played the full game for Lucien Favre’s side - as did his compatriot Marco Reus - and kept the game at 0-0 late on, when he made a good save from a Steed Malbranque shot that almost won it for a Sunderland side who were down to 10-men following Titus Bramble’s dismissal.
Virgil van Dijk
Jordan Pickford famously injured van Dijk during the Merseyside derby early last season but that was not the first time the pair had played against each other, with both players featuring during the Peace Cup fixture between Sunderland and Groningen in 2012.
Thankfully for van Dijk he went off at half-time and the current England number one replaced Ben Wilson (now of Coventry City) just after the hour mark.
Sunderland went on to win the game 3-2 thanks to two late goals, Fraizer Campbell equalising with a minute to go and then Ryan Noble scoring a late solo goal to win it.
Chiellini is still captaining Italy in the ongoing Euro 2020 but the Juventus defender turned up at the Stadium of Light way back in 2007, in a pre-season game that celebrated the 10th anniversary of Sunderland’s stadium.
Sunderland took the lead through Daryl Murphy and had chances to extend the lead but were pegged back late on thanks to a Christian Molinaro goal but the home side almost snatched the win against a Juventus side featuring Chiellini, Buffon, Nedved and Trezeguet when Anthony Stokes hit the post from 25-yards out.
Before he turned up in the Premier League, Brazilian defender David Luiz turned out for Benfica. While he was on the books of the Portuguese giants he would feature in pre-season games against Sunderland twice. First in the 2009 Amsterdam tournament and then again a year later in the Albufeira Cup, both games finishing 2-0 to the Primeira Liga side.
Suarez would rock up at the Stadium of Light long before he became a world star after playing for Liverpool, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Sunderland would host Ajax at the Stadium of Light in the build up to the 2008 season but Roy Keane’s side would go on to lose 1-0 thanks to a Klaas-Jan Huntelaar goal.
Dembele played the first half for Borussia Dortmund against David Moyes’ Sunderland in the summer of 2016. The second half saw multiple changes for both sides, with the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang and Christian Pulisic coming on or the German side, but the game finished 1-1 after Lamine Kone cancelled out Nuri Sahin’s opener.
He featured in the first two Euro 2020 games for France before the Barcelona winger was ruled out of the rest of the tournament through injury.
The Manchester United and Portugal star came on as a substitute as a Sunderland team featuring the likes of Jack Rodwell and Danny Graham beat Serie A outfit Udinese 2-0 thanks to goals from Santiago Vergini and a Connor Wickham penalty.
Entering the field of play in the 76th minute, the playmaker almost scored but his effort was well saved by Vito Mannone.
Not as big a name as the other players on this list, but the recently retired English striker who turned out for the likes of Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace and Brighton actually scored twice against Sunderland way back in 2004 in unusual circumstances.
Mick McCarthy’s side were on a pre-season tour of America when they played a Carolina USL All Stars XI that featured a young Murray, who was then on the books of the Wilmington Hammerheads.
Murray had scored both goals to give the All Stars a 2-1 lead when the game had to be abandoned due to a massive thunderstorm. Despite that abandonment, Murray would credit this game for kickstarting his career, telling the Mirror:
My big break was Sunderland coming out to America on a pre-season tour. I played in a composite all-star league side against them and scored twice, so Mick McCarthy invited me to come back for a trial.
Although it didn’t quite happen for me, Mick asked me if there was anyone he could call to try and get me fixed up – and I said would love to have another crack at making it with Carlisle.
They were interested, but I didn’t hear anything from them for about 10 weeks. I was out of condition, and running out of hope, when they called out of the blue and asked if I wanted to play a reserve game the next day.
I thought, ‘S***, I’m going to struggle here’ – but luckily I managed to score and the manager, Paul Simpson, gave me a chance.