Testimonials are becoming a rarity in the game these days. Very few players stick around at a club for a couple of years never mind a decade. The cynical amongst us will argue that signing on fees and agents desperate for their cut of the deal are to blame, or maybe the managerial merry-go-round is to blame. Whatever the reason it cannot be argued that racking up a couple of hundred appearances for a club is almost unheard of in today's game.
So with that in mind here is my salute to the players over years gone by that have remained loyal to SAFC and starred in literally hundreds of games for the side.
Number 10: Charlie Hurley
The King. What is there to say about the great man that hasn't already been said? A character that brought such class to the defensive line during the 1950's and 60's Hurley has since been voted the "Player of the Century" by the Sunderland fans. Quite simply one of the best players of his generation and why the club hasn't honoured the man by naming a stand after him is beyond me.
Hurley made over 400 appearances for Sunderland and starred in his testimonial in 1967 in a 4-4 draw against an all star eleven.
Number 9: Michael Gray
The most recent player to make the list, Michael lived the dream that we all had as a child. Despite spending a couple of years with Manchester United the youngster decided to sign for his local side in 1990. Gray was initially employed on the left hand side of midfield as he became a first team regular, starting every game of the 1995/96 season. Despite his attack minded football which helped him become a fan favourite Micky is probably, unfortunately, best known for THAT penalty miss in the Play Off Final in the 1998/99 season.
Gray made 383 appearances during his SAFC career and was also called up to the England setup three times during his stint on Wearside. Regrettably for the Sunderland lad he was never afforded a testimonial as his form dipped for the Black Cats and the left back had to look elsewhere for first team football.
Number 8: Charlie Buchan
Only Bobby Gurney scored more goals for Sunderland than Buchan but Charlie can boast the most League goals for the side with an impressive tally of 209.
Sunderland signed the forward in 1911 from Leyton and he would go on to be a very astute signing. Buchan was the leading scorer for 7 of the 8 seasons from 1912/12 through to 1923/24. So impressive was Charlie that he was widely accepted to be the greatest player in the country at that time.
Strangely sections of Roker Park did not take to Buchan upon his arrival and after further abuse in November of 1911 Buchan told then boss Bob Kyle:
"I'll never kick another ball for Sunderland:
Luckily Kyle talked him round and the rest is history.
Number 7: Gordon Armstrong
Armstrong had the toughest of upbringings as a Sunderland fan. He was born on Tyneside. However this did not deter the lad from following the team in Red and White even before signing with the Wearside side as a apprentice in 1983. Armstrong's finest moment for Sunderland would undoubtedly be his winner against Chelsea at Roker Park in an FA Cup Semi Final in 1992:
Gordon was awarded a testimonial in 1994, a prestigious tie against FC Porto at Roker Park in which the home side ran out 2-0 winners.
Number 6: Bobby Kerr
The moustached midfield general is synonymous with Sunderland's FA Cup triumph of 1973 and has the fortune of never having to pay for a pint in Sunderland because of this! Kerr's story could have been quite different however as he suffered not one but two broken legs during the early stages of his career.
The little fella made 433 senior appearances for Sunderland and was given his testimonial in 1976 against who else but Leeds United.
Number 5: Gary Bennett
Bennett was a bargain signing from Cardiff for £85,000 in 1984 and instantly made an impact needing just two minutes of his debut to score past the great Peter Shilton. Gary gave Sunderland eleven years of his career, during which he starred in the 1985 League Cup Final, 1988 League Centenary Tournament, 1990 Division Two Play Off Final, the 1992 FA Cup Final and also had a couple of run ins with David Speedie.
gary bennett david speedie scuffle (via hmsantrim)
Gary managed 434 appearances for SAFC and was awarded his testimonial in 1993, a 3-1 defeat to Glasgow Rangers at Roker.
Number 4: Stan Anderson
Whilst Sunderland were the Manchester City of the time, splashing cash on top talent, Anderson was a welcome local lad that made the grade following joining in 1949. Anderson is most well know for being the first player to represent all three of the North-Easts big sides, causing controversy following his move to Newcastle from Sunderland in 1963.
Stan made 447 appearance whilst at Wearside and was also rewarded with two caps for England during his stint at Roker. His testimonial was against an International eleven in 1964.
Number 3: Ted Doig
Only one game seperates numbers two and three on the list, Ted would actually be number one if we were to figure in the 200+ friendlies which he starred in but sorry Ted, that just won't do I'm afraid! Doig became an ever present for Sunderland's "Team of all talents" and set a club record with seven straight clean sheets. It would appear the goalkeeper was also a little embarrassed by his lack of hair which he would try to hide by wearing a cap during a game. Ted was so obsessed by this infact that he would reportedly chase after said cap should it be blown from it's perch, totally ignoring the game ahead of him.
Number 2: Len Ashurst
So, just pipping Ted to the number slot, Ashurst is the appearance record holder for an outfield player at SAFC with 458 games. In the left back slot Len was part of a formidable back line at the period in SAFC's history playing alongside Iriwn, Hurley, Harvey and McNab.
Len left Sunderland for Hartlepool on a free transfer in 1970 but not before his testimonial against Newcastle. Can you imagine that happening today?
Ashurst also had a short spell as gaffer at Roker Park, leading the side to the League Cup Final in 1985.
Number 1: Jimmy Montgomery
With a career spanning 17 years on Wearside Montgomery made a staggering 627 appearances for the Black Cats and wrote himself into the history books with that stunning double save in the 1973 FA Cup triumph. He was given a "Legend" award recently from the sponsors of the Cup at the time with his heroics to deny Cherry and Lorimer described as the "Greatest moment in FA Cup history" - it would be hard to argue.
The Sunderland lad was given his testimonial in 1974 in a game, just like Ashurst, against arch rivals Newcastle.
To celebrate Jimmy's incredible achievement, let's take yet another look at that career defining moment: