It was sad to see the inevitable passage of time finally catch up with the last remaining playing member of my favourite Sunderland team last month.
Thomas Sorensen, at the ripe old age of 39, finally stepped away from professional football in this country (though he might yet play on at home) after leaving Stoke City and hanging up his giant gloves.
He’d served them well.
Seven years at the Britannia, having joined them in 2008 after a five-year stint at Aston Villa, but to me he’ll always be a Mackem.
In all, over 450 games and most of those in the Premier League, not to mention the century of caps he won for his native Denmark, where he proved himself a most able successor to the legendary Peter Schmeichel.
I can remember when he joined us. Previously Shay Given had flirted with our affections in a brilliant loan spell, one of the highlights from the dying embers of Roker Park.
And then Peter Reid threw his trust behind a wild eyed, shaggy haired Lionel Perez, who wasn’t the biggest of goalkeepers, brave shot stopper though he was, and would have looked even smaller at the Stadium of Light.
Thankfully, after the penalty drama of the play-off final, when Perez didn’t come within a body length of stopping anything Charlton threw at him, Reidy had other plans.
So it came that we kicked off a new season in the Championship with a giant, who looked every inch the modern ideal for a stopper.
Tall, powerfully built, and I’m man enough to admit, devilishly handsome too, Sorensen was a marketeer’s dream and a manager’s ideal.
The Dane, despite his inexperience, looked born for the job and the Sunderland jersey fitted him perfectly.
And it was in many ways the perfect introduction to English football; he could spend much of the time idling on the edge of the box watching Kevin Phillips plunder opponents and admire the attacking verve of that most exciting of teams.
An incredible club record of 29 clean sheets, though, tells you it wasn’t all cups of tea in the goalmouth; when Sorensen was called upon he was commanding and calm.
He gave our back four a reassuring presence that few have done in my years of watching the lads, right up there as my favourite ever Sunderland keeper.
I was with another just a couple of weeks ago, Chris Turner, now chief executive of Chesterfield.
Now, had he been in goal at Wembley for that shootout Charlton would not have had a chance.
Turner was brilliantly agile and dependable, but was just a couple of inches short of being unbeatable.
Craig Gordon was class too, but never filled the shirt in the same way Sorensen did. (I’ve always wanted that in my goalkeepers, big frame, fill the goal ... note to current incumbent, hope you’ve been on the weights this summer Costel!)
Most fans will remember Sorensen as the man who saved Alan Shearer’s penalty to see us home in the derby; really a Sunderland goalkeeper can’t do much more than that.
And when he it did again, but this time between the posts for Aston Villa to deny poor old Alan, you knew it was our fans he was thinking about.
Great goalkeeper and great guy too. I had the honour of playing with him and a whole host of others from that era in Jody Craddock’s testimonial at Molineux last summer.
He didn’t have a lot to do in goal, but he darted off his line and nonchalantly plucked a couple of high balls from the sky which brought back some comforting memories.
He was charming and chatty off the pitch, clearly a popular and respected figure amongst his peers and someone who in my view is the best we’ve had since Monty. Good luck Thomas!