Sunderland have endured, or perhaps enjoyed, a tumultuous century thus far, with two bottom-placed finishes in the Premiership and a couple of Championship-title winning campaigns highlighting the rollercoaster nature of their recent existence.
Life has rarely been dull on Wearside since the year 2000 and amongst the sub-standard playing staff who’ve donned the red and white stripes there have been a few shining beacons who’ve helped to raise the mood at the Stadium of Light.
Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has been one of the Black Cats’ star performers in recent years, with the Belgian now seemingly on the verge of earning a move to Liverpool.
His signing in 2010 has proved to be a snip at the reported £2 million, with a series of wonder saves and man of the match performances arguably a key reason for Sunderland’s Premier League survival last term.
Mignolet has also been an honourable successor to Thomas Sorensen’s goalkeeping legacy.
In defence, twice Fans’ Player of the Year (2008 and 2009) Danny Collins takes the left-back berth for his whole-hearted displays. He’s joined by former Manchester United trio Jonny Evans, Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley (pre-casino incident).
Meanwhile, cult hero Julio Arca scored on his debut against West Ham to immediately endear himself to the home faithful at the turn of the century and his displays of skill and tenacity merit the fans’ favourites’ inclusion.
On the other wing we have Carlos Edwards, known as the Rolls Royce in certain parts of the north-east because of his exciting pace and trickery.
Divisive captain Lee Cattermole naturally takes the ‘destroyer’ role. He may be erratic but even doubters agree his presence adds something to the team.
In a more advanced midfield position, we’ve plumped for cultured Frenchman Steed Malbranque. He played over 100 league games on Wearside towards the end of the last decade and is fondly remembered for his ingenuity and guile.
It may not work on paper but ‘Super’ Kevin Phillips is a shoe-in up-front, while we’ve gone for the enigmatic Darren Bent as his strike partner as opposed to the perhaps more complimentary Niall Quinn.
Perhaps with a potent side like this Sunderland may be much longer than the 6/1 about them to be relegated in the upcoming season.
If you disagree with any of our selections, let us know what you would change in the comments box below.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date