Ranked: The remarkable list of 16 centre-halves to be paired with Sunderland record-breaker John O'Shea
It was another day of acrimony on Saturday for Sunderland, a poor result understandably overshadowing a fine achievement for centre-half John O'Shea.
The Irishman moved past Phil Bardsley’s record for the most Premier league appearances in a red and white shirt, featuring for the 175th time.
Never far away from the thick of the action, O’Shea has seen a number of managers, great escapes, and a memorable cup run.
One of the most dependable players in the squad, he has often held together an ailing defence.
To underline the scale of turbulence O’Shea has held his own through, we ranked the remarkable list of 16 centre-halves he has been paired up with during his time on Wearside.
Of course, after recent developments, it is highly likely to become 17 very soon. So where will Joleon Lescott prove to fit in among this bunch?
16. Modibo Diakite
It wouldn’t be for another fortnight that Paolo Di Canio’s reign would unravel at the Hawthorns, but really the writing had been on the wall from a disastrous trip to Selhurst Park. Diakite, one of many signings that summer who didn’t make a success of their Sunderland career, endured a wretched afternoon and O’Shea ended up taking a red card for a professional foul. Diakite has just signed for Ternana in the Italian second tier.
15. Sotirios Kyrgiakos
Sunderland are no strangers to a last minute loan deal in the dying embers of the January window, and Kyrgiakos is a vintage example of the genre. Chipped in with four appearances but his powers were very clearly on the wane. Retired after spending a short spell in Sydney.
14. Kader Mangane
Signed on loan from Al-Hilal, Mangane played a surprise role in two memorable Sunderland wins, Di Canio’s 3-0 defeat of Newcastle United and the 1-0 win over Everton that followed. A late substitute in both as Sunderland protected their leads, he never threatened to have much of a career in the North East. Has had a nomadic existence since, now in the French Second Division with Strasbourg.
13. Valentin Roberge
Scored against Peterborough in a League Cup win and played his part in a remarkable Goodison Park victory alongside Diakite and Ondrej Celustka, but only made thirteen appearances for Sunderland and is now plying his trade in Cyprus. Di Canio experimented with a number of partners alongside O’Shea but his departure quickly saw returns for Wes Brown and Phil Bardsley.
12. Matt Kilgallon
Perhaps deserves to be higher on the list almost purely for his part in Ji’s truly memorable goal against Manchester City, his block setting the Black Cats away on the counter. Nicknamed ‘Skilgallon’ for some superb antics in the opposition box but on the whole struggled to prove he was Premier League quality, particularly with his use of possession. Now playing for Bradford.
11. Papy Djilobodji
The jury very much remains out on Djilobodji, who has struggled at times with the intensity of the Premier League. One thing is for sure is that he and O’Shea have struggled to form an effective partnership, the Senegal man far more impressive when paired alongside Lamine Kone. With a ban looming he may struggle to fight his back into the team when Kone returns.
10. Anton Ferdinand
The pair had an 100% clean sheet record when playing together. Admittedly, that was for only one game, a 0-0 draw away at Swansea. Roy Keane suggested that he was the best defender in his family and while his Sunderland showings never threatened to back that statement up, the Black Cats did get a decent enough return on their investment,
9. Santiago Vergini
Likely to be remembered for certainly the most remarkable own goal of O’Shea’s time at the club, precipitating a complete meltdown from his side at Southampton. It truly was as sweet a strike as you’re very likely to see. Always had you on the edge of your seat, though it is worth remembering that there were times when he looked a very capable and steady right-back.
8. Jason Denayer
Takes his place so high up this list perhaps more because of what he has the potential to do, rather than what he has done so far. Has mostly been used in midfield and done himself no harm, An excellent performance at centre-half in the first FA Cup game with Burnley raised hopes but he has not been quite as dominant in the games since. David Moyes wants him to be more authoritative with his significant stature.
7. Titus Bramble
A much derided player, one who certainly never got rid of his tendency to drop a howler, but one who actually turned out to be very reasonable business for Sunderland at just £1 million. A regular in Sunderland’s best recent Premier League finish, though O’Shea’s arrival pushed him onto the fringes. Never found another club after leaving Sunderland.
6. Sebastian Coates
Had some seriously tough days, part of the side that started the season so woefully under Dick Advocaat last season. Yet he did show signs of real quality, particularly in the great escape under the Dutchman just months previous. Impressing on loan in Portugal, he may yet boost his reputation on Wearside by bringing in some much needed funds for David Moyes.
5. Michael Turner
Turner looked like a superb signing when he arrived from hull for £4 million. In the end he never quite managed to find the goal scoring form he managed at the Tigers, and he certainly suffered from injuries, a lack of pace and not the best distribution. Yet in comparison to many on this list he was consistent and did the basics well, a good servant and a not a bad defender all things told.
4. Carlos Cuellar
Pace has not been a common trait in Sunderland’s centre-halves in recent years and Cuellar was another one brought in to shore things up. Performed reasonably well under Martin O’Neill and showed he had plenty to offer, but rather predictably didn’t get much of a look in after the Irishman departed.
3. Wes Brown
When fit, most of the managers who came through Sunderland’s doors in O’Shea’s time at the club settled on this pair as their first-choice pairing. What they lacked in speed and youth they invariably made up for in nous and awareness. It was always tough for brown to establish himself after injuries but he was a key part of the better times during O’Shea’s stay, including the memorable trip to Wembley.
2. Younes Kaboul
Had a rocky start to his Sunderland career but by the end of his season on Wearside, he looked as strong and confident a centre-half as the club have had in many a year. The sight of him flying down the wing against Newcastle United with live long in the memory, and his leadership and organisational skills have been a major miss this season.
1. Lamine Kone
Early season controversy has seen his Wearside reputation take a significant hit but there is little doubting that at his best he is an outstanding centre-half. Superb last season, he has not reached those heights this year but his absence has been significantly felt in recent weeks.