Welcome to Last Word on Football’s team of the decade series. Today we look at the players and manager who have made it into the Sunderland team of the decade. 2010 to the end of 2019 saw the Black Cats give fans a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
The decade saw several great escapes, a League Cup final, an EFL Cup final and a play-off final. Sadly, the decade also brought relegation from the Premier League with the Black Cats fighting for promotion from League One.
Sunderland Team of the Decade
Manager – Sam Allardyce
Big Sam was in charge for just ten months, but it was enough time to leave an impact. Allardyce took charge when the Black Cats were once again in a relegation battle. Just three points from their opening eight games meant Sunderland were already in big trouble.
His second game in charge brought a 3-0 victory over fierce rivals Newcastle United. Allardyce organised his team and used the January transfer window to strengthen his first 11. After a battle, Allardyce kept the Black Cats in the Premier League after some excellent results and performances. He left Wearside to take charge of the England national team.
Many believed had Allardyce had stayed at Sunderland, then the following season’s relegation would never have happened. When he left, the Black Cats were a Premier League team with optimism. Almost four years on, they are in League One.
Formation – 4-5-1
A formation used by many teams over the past ten years and Sunderland have proved no different. A back four with three central midfielders, two wide men and a striker. The formation is designed to give protection to the defence and goalkeeper but also give support to the main striker. when attacking it is no surprise to see the wide midfielders become part of a front three with the teams’ striker. At least one of the central midfielders will be expected to join the attack also. Full-backs will also be asked to support the attack when possible
Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford
Jordan Pickford only played one full season on Wearside; however, he became a firm fans’ favourite. A local lad who rose through the ranks at his hometown club, Pickford has gone on to to become England’s number one. He is currently plying his trade with Everton after moving to the Toffees for £30 million in 2017.
Right Back – Phil Bardsley
A defender who played with his heart on his sleeve. Never afraid of a tackle, Phil Bardsley could also score the occasional goal. His goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United in the League Cup semi-final helped his team to the final on a memorable night for Sunderland and their fans.
Centre Back – John O’Shea
Former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea signed for the Black Cats in the summer of 2011. He would go on to make 256 appearances for the club. He captained the club in their League Cup final against Manchester City and also several derby wins over arch-rivals Newcastle.
Centre Back – Younes Kaboul
Younes Kaboul played just one full season but under the guidance of Sam Allardyce, the former Tottenham Hotspur defender proved to be an excellent player, even if it was for such a short time. Kaboul left the club with a heavy heart, citing personal reasons for his move to Watford.
Left Back – Danny Rose
Although Danny Rose currently plays for Newcastle on loan, he is still fondly remembered for his time on Wearside. Rose was 22-years-old when he spent a season on loan from Tottenham; however, it was enough time to make him a fan favourite. Awarded the Young Player of the Season award, a permanent deal was rumoured but he returned to Spurs much to the disappointment of fans.
Right Midfield – Steed Malbranque
Signed form Spurs in 2008, Steed Malbranque became a firm fan favourite on Wearside. His skill brought many to their feet during a game and it was a huge disappointment to fans when he left the club in 2011. The Frenchman could play wide midfield or in a central position.
Centre Midfield – Jordan Henderson
Another local lad to make this team, Jordan Henderson broke into the team as a youngster in 2009 and looked a player with a bright future. He would win the Young Player of the Year award two seasons running and it came as little surprise when Liverpool took an interest. Since leaving his hometown club, Henderson has gone onto captain Liverpool to Champions League glory. He has also captained his country.
Centre Midfield – Lee Cattermole
The type of player fans love. Lee Cattermole played every game like it was his last. Full of passion and determination, Catts, as he was affectionately known, gave his all for the club. Team captain for much of his time on Wearside, Cattermole would often be accused of having discipline issues. However, these, for the most part, were unfair. A very underrated player, he gave 100% for the club during his 10-year stay.
Centre Midfield – Yann M’Vila
A quality midfielder and a fan favourite, M’Vila should have been signed permanently after his loan spell ended. Both player and the then manager Sam Allardyce expressed their desire to make the move permanent; however, negotiations fell through angering fans and the player alike.
Left Midfield – Fabio Borini
Scorer of some spectacular and important goals for the Black Cats, Fabio Borini had two spells at the Stadium of Light, the first being the better of the two. A stunning winner against Newcastle gave him instant star status. Borini would score again against the Magpies as Sunderland beat their rivals 3-0 at St James Park. Scorer of some important goals to help the club avoid relegation, he also scored the opening goal in the 2014 League Cup final against Manchester City.
Striker – Jermain Defoe
Sunderland made one of their best ever deals when they signed Jermain Defoe. The club swapped misfiring forward Jozy Altidore for the England hotshot. A fan favourite on and off the pitch, Defoe scored a spectacular volley to win the Wear-Tyne derby against Newcastle. His goals were vital as Sunderland escaped two relegations during his time at the club.
Subs: Simon Mignolet, Stephan Sessegnon, Darren Bent, John Mensah, Lorik Cana, Chris Maguire, Wahbi Khazri.