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Whilst I may not be the biggest fan of International football, my interest has been waning for a few years now and Mr. Capello's apparent disinterest in the North East has proved to be a proverbial final nail in the coffin, there have been a number of notable SAFC players over the years that have received International recognition from the Home Nations whilst on Wearside. Yes, believe it or not, some International managers have deemed Sunderland an OK side to play for in order to be eligible for selection.
So with the International break wrapping up with another round of midweek fixtures ahead of SAFC's tough trip to Emirates this coming weekend I thought I would run through my top ten players to have represented the Home Nations; England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
There's even a little poll in there so you can vote for your favourite, think of it like X-Factor, but with less crap like Louis Walsh and Gary Barlow.
10. Horatio "Raich" Carter - England: 13 Caps
I have always been drawn to Carter's story. A real Sunderland son, born in the Hendon area of the City in 1913, Carter would go on to become one of the club's most revered servants. Growing up Raich was a huge admirer of the prolific Charlie Buchan which was evident in the playing style he developed. With Carter in their ranks Sunderland were hugely successful, the forward captained the side to the league title in 1935/36. Raich was rewarded for his excellent form with a call up to the International side and in 1938 played alongside Stanley Matthews.
Whilst Carter was not overly enamored with the legendary winger's teamwork, Matthews was more complimentary when it came to his Mackem team mate:
"I was on the right wing and inside me was local hero Raich Carter, who I felt was the ideal partner for me. Carter was a supreme entertainer who dodged, dribbled, twisted and turner, sending bewildered left-halves madly along false trails. Inside the penalty box with the ball at his feet and two or three defenders snapping at his ankles, he'd find the space to get a shot in at goal. Bewilderingly clever, constructive, lethal in front of goal, yet unselfish. Time and time again he'd play the ball out wide to me and with such service I was in my element."
Carter was robbed of his peak years due to the outbreak of the Second World War and surely would have won more than his thirteen caps if it hadn't have been for the conflict.
9. Billy Hughes - Scotland: 1 Cap
For many Billy wrote himself into the SAFC history books that fateful day in 1973 when his corner led to Porterfield's goal. However there was much more to Hughes' Sunderland career, playing over 300 games and bagging himself 70 goals. Billy was a huge fan favourite at the time, forging a formidable partnership with Dennis Tueart. Of course like most players with the club at that time, Hughes career was defined by the successful cup run. A campaign in which Hughes was a big part scoring twice in the fifth round replay against Manchester City and then in the Semi Final against Arsenal.
The forward represented Scotland only the once, coming on as a substitute in a game against Sweden in 1975.
8. Trevor Ford - Wales: 38 Caps
Trevor Ford was a massive milestone in Sunderland's long history. His transfer to Roker Park from Aston Villa in 1950 was a British Transfer Record at the time for a whopping £30,000. We weren't called the "Bank of England" club for nothing! The striker continued his goal scoring exploits which had made him a footballing celebrity of the time, managing to bag 67 goals in 108 games across his three year stint on Wearside.
The British Pathe has some superb footage of Ford in action during an FA Cup Fifth Round tie with Norwich at Roker Park:
Over his playing career Ford was capped by Wales on 38 occasions and became their all time joint aggregate goal scorer with 23 goals to his name.
7. Charlie Hurley - Ireland: 40 Caps
The player of the Century had to get on my list somewhere. Hurley probably should be higher on my list but at the age of 26 I cannot testify to have seen the great man in action. My appreciation of the centre half, and all of the great players that have featured so far, is based upon what we are all taught as youngsters from the "older" generation, in my case, my Grandad.
Hurley was a centre half of the highest regard, a classy and skillful centre half that was key to one of the most formidible defensive lineups in Sunderland's history in the 1960's; Jimmy Montgomery, Cecil Irwin, Len Ashurst, Martin Harvey, Jimmy McNab and of course Charlie.
Hurley represented his native Ireland 40 times over his career and found the net twice.
6. Darren Bent - England: 11 Caps
Okay, hear me out on this one. Before everything went belly up Darren Bent was the first Sunderland player to represent England in god knows how long. This also coincides with the last time I paid any real interest in International football overall. To see a Sunderland forward in not just the squad but lining up for the starting eleven was genuinely exciting.
There were a number of contributing factors to Bent's unceremonious departure from the club, none of which paint the forward in a great light. Personally I believe Capello's personal stance of Sunderland being a club in the footballing wilderness played a big part in Bent's decision. Playing for England is obviously very important to Bent and Capello made it clear that playing for the likes of Sunderland would only make it harder for him to figure for the side. Apparently scoring goals for the likes of Aston Villa is more important in Italian eyes.
5. Craig Gordon - Scotland: 40 Caps
During all the speculation leading up to Craig's arrival on Wearside there were rumours linking him moves to both Aston Villa and Arsenal, even Manchester United a year or two earlier. This is what really made me stand up and take notice. Maybe this lad from the pub leagues up North was decent, after all he had just been named in the Hearts Hall of Fame at only 24.
If you hadn't taken notice of Gordon before his arrival you certainly did when details of the transfer broke and Sunderland were prepared to shell out £9m for their man, a British Club record for a goalkeeper. I liked Gordon. Following all of his injuries as of late, the emergence of Simon Mignolet and the arrival of Kieren Westwood the Scot's future at SAFC is heavily in doubt especially as this is the last year of his current contract. Should Gordon move on to pastures new I will wish him all the best. Much like Trevor Ford, Gordon's transfer was some what of a milestone in recent Sunderland history, a marker as to the ambition we had and the newly found financial backing we found ourselves in possession of.
Whilst representing Scotland Gordon probably received the greatest compliment a goalkeeper can receive as following a 1-1 draw with Italy the legendary Gianluigi Buffon claimed that Craig could become one of the greatest goalkeepers in the World.
4. Michael Gray - England: 3 Caps
Michael has made my list mainly because of the timing of his selection. Gray is without a doubt one of the most noteworthy names associated with the club in recent years, his wing play and partnership with Allan Johnston being the standout memories for the SAFC fans whilst the rest of the footballing world will remember him for that penalty miss in the Playoff Final.
The 1998/99 season is probably my all time favourite in the relatively short time I have been following Sunderland. The football was a delight to watch and belief among the fans was at an all time high. The feel good factor was further cemented, for a fourteen year old like myself at least, when then England boss called Gray up to the England squad for a match against Hungary in 1999. For Gray to earn such recognition whilst playing in the First Division was testament to the form he was in.
Gray would go on to make a further two appearances for his country under Keegan.
3. Andy Melville - Wales: 65 Caps
I was always a fan of the dependable Melville. His style of play was more effective than it was eye-catching, perhaps a reason he is not held in such high regard by as many SAFC fans as he should be. Andy had to bide his time and work hard to earn his first team spot with Sunderland but when he did, alongside Paul Butler, would help form the foundation for much of Sunderland's success in the 1998/99 term - a solid, settled back four.
It is an often forgotten fact that Melville is the most capped Welshman to represent Sunderland with an impressive 65 appearances for his country, not even Trevor Ford or Danny Collins can beat that...
2. Kevin Phillips - England: 8 Caps
Super Kev makes my number two spot due to the fact he is the one Sunderland player that fully deserved their call up to the England squad yet, for a number of reasons, never managed to bag a goal. It's no secret, Phillips is my all time footballing hero. Players like Dariusz Kubicki and Craig Russell had gone before but neither could come close to the impact that Phillips had on a young Sunderland fan like myself.
Along with all of Wearside I was praying that Phillips would be given a decent chance whilst away on International duty, bag a goal or two to prove what we all knew he was capable of, desperate to ram home to our Newcastle rivals that we too had an England striker of note... However it was not to be. Kev was never really given a fair run for his country and was desperately unlucky on occassions with the likes of Jermain Defoe getting on the end of crosses just before our lad, or rounding the Malta goalkeeper only to see his shot find the side netting.
So despite Wearside's backing and support Phillips would earn 8 caps but never be granted a full 90 minutes to find that elusive first goal.
1. Niall Quinn - Ireland: 92 Caps
There could only really be one winner! Niall made his International debut in 1986, would go on to make 92 appearances before retiring as the all time top goal scorer for his country with 21 goals, a record which has since been surpassed by perennial Sunderland transfer target, at least according to the press, Robbie Keane.
Quinn represented Ireland at two World Cups; 1990 and 2002, having to miss the 1994 campaign through injury. The big fella also made a substitute appearance in a 1-0 win over England during the 1988 European Championships.
Niall had a number of memorable moments during his International career including a famous equaliser against Holland during the 1990 World Cup, this goal helping his side advance from the group stages into the second round. Quinn would also mark his 35th birthday with a goal against Cyprus during the World Cup 2002 Qualifiers, a goal which also saw him break the Irish goal scoring record.
The highlights of the Germany vs Ireland game from the 2002 World Cup showcases Quinn's talent in the air with a perfect knock down into the path of Robbie Keane for the Irish equaliser.
So there you have it, my top ten favourite SAFC Home Nation Internationals. Have I missed your number one choice? Let us know in the comments and make your vote in the poll! We're all about interaction with the readers, so let your voice be heard!
Who was your favourite Home Nations International to play for SAFC?
Raich Carter (1 vote)
Billy Hughes (1 vote)
Trevor Ford (0 votes)
Charlie Hurley (1 vote)
Darren Bent (0 votes)
Craig Gordon (3 votes)
Michael Gray (2 votes)
Andy Melville (1 vote)
Kevin Phillips (7 votes)
Niall Quinn (5 votes)
21 total votes