SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: General views of the Stadium of Light on December 6, 2011 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
All last week we were running through our groundbreaking Roker Report draft, in which 6 Sunderland AFC super-squads were created by each of our writers.
To catch up with what this is all about and the rules, you can CLICK HERE. You can also check our part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here, and part five here. As you can see, it was a hefty old project and as you can imagine tempers flared as competitive streaks raced to the surface!
Now it is your turn to get involved, though, by voting for your winner. The full squads and reasons behind them are listed below. Simply consider your winner and award your vote to the person you think made best use. The winner shall win months worth of coveted Roker Report bragging rights, so cast your vote carefully!
Karl Jones: Brian Clough, Charlie Buchan, Jimmy Hannah, Johnny Campbell, John Auld, Bobby Kerr, Shay Given, Arthur Bridget, Jimmy Watson, Lee Clark, Charlie M. Thompson, Jody Craddock, Seb Larsson, Thomas Porteous, Simon Mignolet
Preferred XI: (4-2-2-2) Given; Porteous, Auld, Thomson, Watson; Kerr, Clark; Hannah, Bridgett; Clough, Campbell
My team, in the same way that NFL franchises search for a ‘face' of the organisation, personifies my number one pick - supremely talented and just as bullishly confident.
The core value I wanted my team to convey in this uber-competitive draft was a winning mentality, so my picks delve deep into the archives of SAFC history because let's face it, we've not won too much recently.
As a result I expect I've alienated our good readers with my team - which Simon never tired of reminding me throughout - but there are a few players that readers will remember fondly and their selections were not uncompromised when it came to their playing ability.
Yet, as a tactic, picking from decades past worked brilliantly; being able to pick up the right-back from the ‘Team of all Talents' in the last-but-one round? What a bargain!
So, onto my side and an title-winning back four speaks for itself really, but the inclusion of ‘Daddy Long Legs' Jimmy Watson at left-back is key; his stamina (I must stress that I'm talking about ‘back in the day') an important function in what is an arrogantly offensive side.
In the middle, both Bobby Kerr and Lee Clark have the capability to play in a two-man central midfield, but more importantly, they have the capability to pass a ball. As an added bonus, both had decent goal scoring records during the time at the club, providing a fall-back option should my primary and secondary sources of attack somehow falter.
Further forward, Arthur Bridgett and Jimmy Hannah both provide goals from the wide areas. Bridgett scored over 100 league goals from the left whilst Hannah's 69 goals in 152 league games is only bettered by his Cup exploits - where he scored 10 goals in 16 games for the club.
And now the headline acts. Both Clough and Campbell were highly prolific scorers in teams challenging for honours. Although Clough's challenge was to restore Sunderland as a top-flight side, whilst Campbell fired the club to league titles, it will be the former's charisma and almost stubborn determination that'll lead my mythical team's charge to glory.
Simon Walsh: Kevin Phillips, Raich Carter, Martin Harvey, Jim Baxter, Thomas Sorensen, Joe Bolton, Shaun Elliott, Billy Bingham, Johnny Crossan, Dick Malone, Gordon Armstrong, Tony Towers, Gary Owers, Mart Poom, Jim McNab
Preferred XI: (4-2-3-1) Sorensen; Malone, Harvey, Elliott, Bolton; Towers, Armstrong; Bingham, Crossan, Baxter; Phillips
I think that's my preferred starting lineup anyway. I've changed my mind about twelve times, which is understandable given the depth of quality in my squad of undisputed Sunderland greats. However, I think that a 4-2-3-1 provides plenty of flexibility to move into a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. Plus if all else fails, look at that blooming bench of all-stars. It's the type of team Real Madrid can only dream of with their "Galacticos" policy.
Tommy Sorensen gets the nod in goal, arguably our finest goalkeeper of the modern era. Tommy's solid, reliable and very much worthy of keeping goal in an all-time greatest Sunderland team. If by some bizarre reason he's not cutting the mustard, Mart Poom provides a superb backup I think you'll agree.
Now for the defence, and what a defence it is. There are all-stars from right to left, so we'll start on the right and go to Dick Malone. One of our more celebrated right fullbacks, Malone attacked with verve, and defended stoutly. How could we forget that famous day in 1973 to, when Eddie Gray went firmly into Malone's pocket, never to be seen again?
In to the middle and look at that pairing. Giants of two era's for Sunderland in Martin Harvey and Shaun Elliott. Harvey, one of the greatest defenders to play for the club, and voted a "Terrace Legend" by the club themselves after amassing over 350 games across the entire defence. Even selected for Northern Ireland ahead of Danny Blanchflower, which is some accolade.
Elliott, was a different proposition to Harvey. Lightening quick, and many speculate that we could well have won the 1985 Milk Cup had he not been suspended. A fans favourite, and superb defender, unlucky not to be fully capped by his country.
To the holding midfield roles, where we have more legendary names in Gordon Armstrong and Tony Towers. Armstrong many of us know as a hardworking, all round midfield player who played over 450 times for the lads, and notched his fair share of goals too. Armstrong is an excellent foil for Towers, who sprayed the ball around the pitch with style and panache. A real gem of a player who could assist this incredible forward line...
Bingham, Crossan, Baxter... Strikes fear into the heart of defenders eh? And there's Kevin Phillips on top of that, with Raich Carter waiting in the wings.
Bingham, one of the finest wingers not just in Sunderland history, but British football. Bingham was speedy and unstoppable on his day. ‘Slim' Jim Baxter on the left, one of the finest players ever to come out of Scotland, nay, the British Isles. Not many other players drafted will have a statue built of them as Jim has in his home town.
Johnny Crossan I'm putting in the hole behind SuperKev. A perhaps controversial move, but I feel he can create as well as score. It's not just myself or other Sunderland fans who rated him though, take the word of the great Alfredo Di Stefano, who after playing against Crossan in the European Cup final, begged Real Madrid to snap him up. Their loss was our gain, and what a player he was.
In front of Crossan, we have SuperKev. What else can we say about him that hasn't been said before. Our most prolific post-war scorer, and easily in the top two or three strikers ever to play for the club, and there could be an argument made to place him at number one on that list. To remind everyone of his perhaps greatest achievement on Wearside, to this day as you read this, the ONLY English player to ever win the European Golden Boot, and he did it here.
Crikey. A formidable side eh? And a healthy bench to boot with Mart Poom, Gary Owers, Jim McNab and Raich Carter. We might as well get the cigars out now, this will be an absolute cakewalk. ELEVEN selections from Sunderland's own selected "Solid Gold XI", and class and quality in every department, there's absolutely no argument to be made. I'll get to work on the winners speech now...
Michael Graham: Charlie Hurley, Colin Todd, Paul Bracewell, Darren Bent, Chris Turner, Stephane Sessegnon, Michael Gray, Allan Johnston, Don Hutchison, John O'Shea, Stefan Schwarz, Stan Cummins, Bryan 'Pop' Robson, Andy Melville, Albert McInroy
Preferred XI: (4-3-3) Turner; O'Shea, Hurley, Todd, Gray; Bracewell, Hutchison, Schwarz; Sessegnon, Johnston, Bent
I never made any secret that I was building from the back and in Colin Todd and Charlie Hurley I feel I have arguably assembled the finest two centre halves in the club's history upon which to build my team. There is a fine goalkeeper behind them, but I doubt he'd have much to do.
In midfield I'd like to wish people the best of luck in trying to get the ball off Paul Bracewell and Stefan Schwarz, especially when Todd can step up into the play, too.
The flanks offer little refuge to the opposition either. O'Shea's distribution is not ideal, but with this many players who are comfortable on the ball around him, he could easily step his game up like he showed at Manchester United. Ahead of him, Stephane Sessegnon would be given licence to roam and terrorise defenders like we all know he can. The left hand side of my side is the real game changer, though. Frankly, none of my Roker Report colleagues deserve to win this draft considering they all stood back and allowed me to reunite the incredible partnership of Michael Gray and Allan Johnston. Two good players, but when paired together they both become exceptional players.
At the business end of the pitch, Darren Bent would be drooling over the kind of service he'd get. It's so good that even he wouldn't dream of Birmingham hotels. With Don Hutchison granted the freedom to arrive late in the box too, the potential for goals is immense.
There is also the comfort of some real attacking quality on the bench too in Stan Cummins and Bryan 'Pop' Robson, as well as another defender who offers comfort on the ball and a top quality goalkeeper.
This is a squad in which you will find no Gordon Armstrong or Kevin Ball shaped weak links. It is simply a squad packed full of proper footballers, who are all comfortable with a football at their feet, with skill, pace, dynamism, and leadership throughout.
I know what you are thinking and given the vast gulf between Team Graham and the rest I understand your suspicions... but I didn't cheat. The other participants in this draft should hang their heads in shame for allowing me to assemble a squad of this quality. Punish them for it by voting for me.
David Boyle: Niall Quinn, Len Shackleton, Bobby Gurney, Johnny Mapson, Hughie Wilson, Willie Watson, Nick Summerbee, Sandy McAllister, Chris Makin, Ernie England, Alex Rae, Barry Siddall, Dariusz Kubicki, Eric Gates, George Mulhall
Preferred XI: (4-4-2) Mapson, Makin, Wilson, McAllister, England, Summerbee, Rae, Shackleton, Mulhall, Gurney, Quinn
What started out as some harmless fun behind the scenes at Roker Report Towers soon escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast. Dan Williams stabbed a man in the heart before killing a guy with a trident and is now laying low in France for a while, probably wanted for murder...
I've given Johnny Mapson the keeper gloves ahead of Barry Siddall in my starting eleven. There could be no real argument here, Siddall was good, but Mapson is somewhat of a legend, making just short of four-hundred appearances before and after second world war and was renown for his superb positional awareness, reflex saves and his unique style of catching the ball with one arm over the other at the side of his body.
Ahead of Mapson I plan to employ a traditional flat-back four made up of some of the most uncompromising names to grace the red and white stripes, starting with Chris Makin in the right back berth. Chris will need no introduction to Sunderland fans; a popular, tough-tackling full back who also had a keen eye for a pass. Makin also helped to make up one of the most productive and creative right-wing combinations in living memory, something I will get back to in due course.
Into the centre of my defensive wall of tough competitors we have Hughie Wilson and Sandy McAllister. Wilson had the honour of playing in Sunderland's very first league game and was also the first SAFC player to receive their marching orders. Hughie was uncompromising defender; a tough tackler who complimented this with great vision for a pass. He also had a ridiculously long one-handed throw-in which forced the FA to outlaw his not-so-secret weapon.
Sandy McAllister was another hard-as-nails defender. The former coal miner may not have been the tallest player on the field but was stocky, robust and courageous in the tackle. Sandy was ever-present in the 1902 title-winning side as could possibly have been one the club's first "Cult Heroes" as upon scoring his first goal for the club he was presented with a gold watch and a piano by the fans.
By now my preference in style of defenders has become painfully obvious and I am not about to break this trend now as Ernie England completes my back four in the left back spot. England was something of a trendsetter back in the 1920's as he played on the "wrong side". Ernie would revel in allowing a cocky winger to drift inside, in fact he would often shepherd them in, before sliding in to win the ball with his stronger foot.
Getting back to that memorable right-wing combination, I couldn't have Chris Makin at right-back without drafting in his partner in crime for my right-hand side - Nick Summerbee. Nicky was a revelation upon joining Sunderland in 1997 and whilst his trademark un-tucked shirt and style may have been perceived as lazy by the ill-advised, the winger was deadly accurate with his crosses, only needing half a yard from his man to whip a teasing ball into the area.
In my two man midfield I have Rae and The Clown Prince in a diamond-esq formation. I'm expecting Rae to play his usual midfield game; breaking up the play, keeping the ball moving and also popping up with a goal or two. Alex may also have to pick up a little of the slack as I have moved Len Shackleton into a more central position but will grant the wizard the freedom to get forward as he sees fit. Shackleton is one of the all time Sunderland greats, a true legend of the club, one whom I simply had to have in the side. The tricks Shackleton was able to pull off with that heavy old football have become SAFC folklore. One-two's off the corner flag, dribbling, feinting, mocking full-backs and even scoring penalties with a back-heel, what isn't there to love about Shack!?
I've given George Mulhall the nod for the left-wing spot in my starting eleven. George was lightning quick, direct and simply shrugged off the tough-treatment he often endured from opposition fullbacks who simply couldn't keep up. There was nothing complicated about Mulhall's style of play but it was bloody effective.
Now with service like that coming from my midfield how could a forward line made up of names like Quinn, Gurney and Gates not flourish and score for fun? I'm opting for Quinn and Gurney to take the starting positions with Gates to emerge as a deadly supersub more than capable of taking advantage of some tired legs in the opposition's defence.
The thought of Niall Quinn feeding off crosses from Summerbee and Mulhall is the thing dreams are made of. Throw Gurney into the mix as well, Sunderland's all time highest scorer, feeding off Quinn's knock-downs and Shackleton's through balls, I'm on for a winner here.
I also have some cracking options on the bench who could easily figure in the starting eleven but such is the strength of this squad they will have to bide their time on the bench. Barry Siddall will act as a more than capable deputy to Mapson, with my childhood hero Dariusz Kubicki ready to step into the defensive breach, Wing-half come International cricketer to bring more class to my midfield if called upon and the crafty Eric Gates as an alternative forward.
A pretty darn decent squad I'm sure you'll agree!
Chris Weatherspoon: Dave Watson, Ted Doig, Dave Halliday, Kevin Ball, Billy Hughes, Len Ashurst, Marco Gabbiadini, Julio Arca, Cec Irwin, Len Duns, Steve Bould, Craig Gordon, George Holley, Martin Smith, Kieran Richardson
Preferred XI: (4-3-3) Doig; Irwin, Ashurst, Watson, Bould; Ball, Hughes, Smith; Halliday, Holley, Gabbiadini
This team has got strength everywhere you look, and a fluid 4-3-3 formation should get the best out of them.
In Doig the side possesses the club's most successful goalkeeper ever, though given the defence laid out in front of him, it is arguable the Scot will rarely be called into action anyway.
Cec Irwin and Len Ashurst are no strangers to one another, so they should compliment one another quite well, knowing exactly when the other is to push forward, and vice-versa. It is in the middle of defence, however, that this side's core strength lies. In Dave Watson it has an England international who is quick across the ground yet imposing in the air, while Steve Bould's presence alongside him will striker fear into the hearts of even the strongest opposition frontmen. The ex-Arsenal stopper will marshal his defence accordingly, effectively playing as an Italian libero, and many an opposing striker will fall prey to our cunning offside trap.
Moving into midfield, a real mix of grit and flair will support the front three very well indeed. Kevin Ball's deep-lying role will consist of breaking up attacks and then quickly moving the ball on - either to the flanks, where Irwin and Ashurst will have adapted to the more modern-day type of full-back, or to midfield partners Hughes and Smith. Hughes will no doubt chip in with his fair share of goals, while Smith, given freedom to harness his undoubted flair, will finally show the potential many a manager was unable to unleash.
Up top, Messrs Gabbiadini, Halliday and Holley will do anything but struggle for goals. On occasion one may be sacrificed for an extra midfielder, but for the most part the strength in defensive depth behind them will allow all three to hit the net regularly. With Smith as the perfect link up man in midfield, Gabbiadini will act as another deeper conduit - though will likely still notch a hatful for himself. Halliday and Holley will offer a prolific partnership to rival even the best days of Quinn-Phillips.
All in all this is a team strong in every position and, should they be needed, the four substitutes are all more than capable. Weatherspoon's wonders? You bet.
Dan Williams: Jimmy Montgomery, Ian Porterfield, Dennis Tueart, Gary Rowell, Stan Anderson, Gary Bennett, Nick Sharkey, John Kay, Jack Colback, Vic Halom, Ron Guthrie, Tony Norman, Steed Malbranque, Wes Brown, Dwight Yorke
Preferred Team: (4-2-4) Montgomery; Kay, Anderson, Bennett, Guthrie; Porterfield, Colback; Tueart, Sharkey, Rowell, Halom
Whatever Mike said about me, its not true. While I was waiting patiently for everyone to make their choices and supporting everyone calmly when they took the players that I had hoped to bag myself, he was mouthing off, emailing everyone about how he's such an ‘idol' and telling us how heroes like him shouldn't have to wait for anyone.
Anyway, you aren't here to hear this, you're here to see the reasoning behind my team, and be astonished that you even considered voting for anyone else's starting XI...
Right, so filling the gloves of my team is pretty much the club's most important goalkeeper of all time. He needs no introduction, but I shall give him one anyway. The man made a record 627 appearences for he boys, pulled off probably the finest save that anyone has ever seen (and I include replays of Gordon Banks in this) and is still associated with the club that he loves now. The fact that Jimmy Montgomery is in my team should win me this competition on its own.
At the back, I've gone for big and strong across the board.
As I mentioned when talking about Monty, I doubt that two of them need any introduction at all. John Kay was an absolute monster. Making his name as a self-styled hard man, ‘the Tractor' will always be remembered for pretending to row his stretcher off the pitch after suffering a broken leg. If that's not heroic, I don't know what is.
In the middle, expect to see Gary Bennett and Stan Anderson. Benno is another living legend still associated with the club. A no-nonsense defender, he will not only sort things out at the back, but 23 goals in a career that spanned over 300 games means that my defence will contribute vital goals too. The same can be said for his defensive partner, who played even more games for the lads, and has 31 goals to his name. Stan Anderson played over 400 times for Sunderland, and was the first person ever to captain not only us, but Middlesbrough and Newcastle too. To be captain of all three really shows his class.
At left back, I've got a '73 hero. When Steve Bruce claimed that he was disliked for being a Geordie, we all said it was bo*****s, and Ron Guthrie proved that. Coming into the team for the cup run, he was a beast at left back, and gave no change as he dominated opponent after opponent.
So, with a back five that it legen..... wait for it..... dary (TMBarney off How I Met Your Mother), I needed a midfield to match.
To be honest, I'm shocked that no-one took Ian Porterfield before me, even if I did pick him second. He scored the goal that brought glory to our club. His boot scored the goal that we've all watched 1,000 times. He was the hero at Wembley. He made '73 the most famous number of all time. He is Ian Porterfield.
Alongside the captain is a young man ready and waiting to achieve greatness. Jack Colback is probably the finest ginger person in the world. No, all jokes aside, he's a magnificent little battler in the middle of the park, and has vision and composure well beyond his years. It may seem a little premature of me to put him in a team of all ages, but I genuinely think that we'll be talking about Jack for many, many years to come.
Right, up top I've got an absolute dirge of talent.
Do I need to say anything about Gary Rowell, conqueror of the Mags in a game that he was hat trick hero? All I will say is... Number one is Gary Rowell, number two is Gary Rowell, number three is...
Alongside him I have another '73 legend in the shape of Vic Halom. Vic was plying his trade at Luton as the season started all those years ago, but snapped up for a reasonable fee by Mr Bob Stokoe, he became as essential as anyone as Sunderland marched to the final and overcame Leeds on that magical day.
But with two strikers such as Halom and Rowell in my ranks, I'm going to need someone to supply them, so have chosen the man who was once signed to replace Pele, Dennis Tueart. Dennis has the skills to pay even the most expensive of bills, and was such a danger coming in from the left onto his right boot that he will probably notch 20 goals a season for me. Not only was he incredible for us, but he went on to become a Manchester City legend too, and as I mentioned, was signed New York Cosmos to replace Pele.
On the other wing, I have Nick Sharkey. Although he wasn't with us in the north East for too long, Sharkey's predatory instincts can not be questioned, as 51 goals in 99 games proved. That kind of scoring rate would make anyone a hero for the Lads, and that's why he's in my team, because they are all legends, and all in the side that should win your vote.
I haven't even mentioned the medals that Wes Brown has won, or the trickery that Steed Malbranque could bring to the team. All I will say is, be smart, vote Dan.
So you've heard the pitches, and if the length of some of them especially when they were all asked for 'a couple hundred words' doesn't illustrate how competitive this draft has been then I don't know what will! So who wins? You decide. Simply cast your vote below!
Who wins our Roker Report Draft? Cast your vote!
Karl Jones (3 votes)
Simon Walsh (170 votes)
Michael Graham (197 votes)
David Boyle (4 votes)
Chris Weatherspoon (5 votes)
Dan Williams (7 votes)
386 total votes