Looking back on Sunderland’s more recent history, it is tough for me to choose the best player to have played for the Black Cats, with several big names floating around in my mind.
Cult heroes such as Julio Arca, local lads such as Michael Gray are among the best, yet the biggest decision is between the duo of Super Kevin Phillips and now-chairman Niall Quinn.
The infamous duo were fantastic during the late 1990s into early 2000s, master-minding Sunderland’s 7th place Premier League finish two seasons in a row. I think Quinny has been tremendous for this club, becoming a chairman and truly a fans’ favourite on Wearside, but for me, Kevin Phillips is the best player I have seen play for the lads.
The Phillips-Quinn partnership was one to behold and something that I feel is lacking from modern day English football in the partnering of a tall striker with a little finisher.
At the time when Phillips became Premier League top goalscorer in 2000, I was only young at nine years old, but I will never forget the pride I felt to chant ‘Super Kevin Phillips’ at the Stadium of Light. By scoring 30+ goals, Phillips was lethal in front of goal, and fans never doubted for a second that it would be any less than a goal when he got a chance.
In a feat that’s only been bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo since, this amazing goal haul suggests that Phillips was not only one of the best Sunderland players ever, but a legendary Premier League striker, still plying his trade at Birmingham.
How Phillips never got more recognition for England I will never know. He was surely one of the best strikers in England at the time, and was always guaranteed to get a chance at some point across the 90 minutes.
So many great memories: the wonder strike against Chelsea, the hat-trick versus Bradford or the winner in the pouring rain at St. James’. So many to choose from and every moment appreciated by the Sunderland faithful.
Upon his return to the Stadium of Light last year with Birmingham, his bow to the crowd and the response from the fans, showed how much he is loved on Wearside and how the fans will never forget what he achieved for the club.
Looking at the current crop of strikers, two players that could emulate the success Phillips had at Sunderland are Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan, both already fan favourites and if they can maintain their goalscoring form, we may be talking about one of these being the best Sunderland player ever in years to come.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.