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Roker Roundtable: Which former Sunderland players would fit into our current team?

We asked our writers to choose one player from any era who would be ideally suited to playing in the Sunderland team of 2023.

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Gav says…

As much as I like Anthony Patterson, can you imagine Jordan Pickford in this team and system, where the role of the goalkeeper in our style of play is as important as every other position in the starting eleven?

I’m salivating as I type this, thinking about him zinging balls for Ross Stewart to run on to, and it’s always handy to have another shithouse who could take the burden off Luke O’Nien every once in a while.

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Dan Harrison says…

It’s a slightly redundant argument now that we’ve got Ross Stewart returning from injury, but some of the football played last season was mesmerising and it just required the touch of a clinical striker to bury the crosses after the mazy runs from our wingers.

I think that having a striker of the pure finishing ability of Jermaine Defoe would’ve resulted in a feast of goals for the titular forward last year.

The link up play suited him and he would’ve fed off the likes of Amad & Jack Clarke, taking the pressure off him to carry the ball and letting him focus on what he’s best at- being ruthless inside the eighteen yard box.

Jon Guy says…

It would have to be Marco Gabbiadini.

He’s the type of player who would thrive on the service he’d get from Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, and if he was alongside Ross Stewart or Ellis Simms, he’d be the perfect foil. He could feed off the knockdowns but would give also us the option of playing the ball in behind the defence.

He had pace, which would give the wingers a ready option on the counter attack and he always had the knack of being in the right place at the right time when the ball was pinging around inside the box.

He also was intelligent and unselfish, so he would create space for others, and was strong on the ball.

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Phil West says…

I’m going to go slightly left field here and choose Alex Rae.

Rae was an absolutely gem of a player in red and white. He could pick a pass and his positioning and reading of the game was exceptional, but he was also fiercely competitive; he loved a challenge and was never shy of winding up the opposition when he felt like it!

In our current side, I think the Scot would thrive, and he’d probably go straight in there as captain if Corry Evans wasn’t at the club.

He’d keep things ticking over in midfield whilst ensuring we weren’t outgunned physically, but his engine would enable him to make surging forward runs when necessary and he’d definitely chip in with some goals as well.

Last season, mastery of the ‘dark arts’ was sometimes lacking from our young squad, but with Rae in the team, that wouldn’t be an issue in the slightest.

Malcolm Dugdale says…

While the obvious choices may be Quinn and/or Phillips being the age I am, I’d love to get Allan Johnston, the man we called “Magic” back in the late 90s back in the side.

The mercurial midfielder was a favourite of mine and at times an absolutely wonderful talent to watch, and if this was really possible he would very much complement the hole left in the side by the exit of Amad after his loan completed very successfully. Being a right footer rather than a leftie we may have to play a pretty fluid side to fit him and Clarke in, but what’s new eh!

A lot of what Clarke does today really reminds me of Johnston too, especially the trick where they cut back and use a right foot curler for goals. He was skillful, tricky and had a great eye for goal.

With Roberts, Clarke and our Magic not only scoring but also feeding Ross Stewart and our other new strikers to come with crosses and accurate through balls, we would terrify any championship defence even more than we did last campaign.

Thanks for the memories Allan - I’ll just go fix the time machine.

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