Where are they now? The Sunderland stars from last time they played Wimbledon's predecessors

Sunderland will face AFC Wimbledon for the first time this weekend '“ but the Black Cats have plenty of history with their predecessors.

Thursday, 23rd August 2018, 7:00 pm
Marcus Stewart scored against Wimbledon.

AFC Wimbledon were formed from the ashes of former FA Cup winners Wimbledon and, since starting life in their current guise back in 2002, have enjoyed a rapid rise up the leagues – culminating in promotion to League One in 2016.

Such a rise means that they have yet to cross paths with Sunderland, but the Wearsiders have faced the former Wimbledon side on many occasions.

Paul Thirlwell is assistant manager at Harrogate Town.

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And the last of those meetings, on April 6, 2004, Sunderland – packed full of fans’ favourites – ran out 2-1 winners thanks to goals from Marcus Stewart and substitute Darren Byfield at the National Hockey Stadium.

But where are those players now?

We’ve taken a look at how their career paths have developed ...

MART POOM

Kevin Kyle entered the world of darts after leaving football.

The Estonian goalkeeper enjoyed a four-year stint at the Stadium of Light and quickly endeared himself to Sunderland supporters.

He is currently the goalkeeper coach for the Estonian national team.

JOACHIM BJORKLUND

A £1.5m signing in 2002, Swedish defender Bjorklund spent just 18 months at the Stadium of Light.

Since retiring, he has turned his attentions to coaching and is assistant manager at Hammarby in Sweden’s top flight.

GARY BREEN

Extremely popular among supporters, Breen made over 100 appearances at the Stadium of Light.

He coached at Barnet and Peterborough after retiring, but has now taken up media work in Abu Dhabi.

GEORGE McCARTNEY

The Northern Irish defender was in his first spell at Sunderland for this clash and never officially announced his retirement from football - but he has been seen infrequently on football coverage in Northern Ireland since leaving West Ham in 2014.

CARL ROBINSON

The midfielder was enjoying a loan with Sunderland when this clash was played, and he too has transitioned into coaching having managed the Vancouver Whitecaps since 2013.

JULIO ARCA

The popular Argentine is one of the few players from this side to have remained on Wearside, with his illustrious career coming to an end only months ago after a spell at South Shields.

He is now involved with the Back2Basics training company alongside other ex-Sunderland stars.

PAUL THIRLWELL

Similarly to Arca, midfielder Thirlwell still remains fairly local to the North East and is now pursuing a future in the dugout as assistant manager at Harrogate Town.

MATT PIPER

Piper was mainly a peripheral figure during his time at Sunderland and in his retirement has launched FSD Academy - an academy for talented youngsters.

DARREN WILLIAMS

Another fans’ favourite, Williams made 200 appearances during his time on Wearside and has since remained in the North East. A former Whitby Town manager. Displaying his passion for Sunderland, he also helped supporters fit new seats at the Stadium of Light as part of the summer revamp.

MARCUS STEWART

Stewart was in the middle of a goal-laden spell on Wearside when the Black Cats last faced Wimbledon, and is currently number two at Sunderland’s League One rivals, Bristol Rovers.

KEVIN KYLE

Kyle enjoyed a promising career north of the border after leaving Sunderland, but entered the world of darts after retiring in 2014 - with limited success. Also had a loan spell at Hartlepool United.

Subs:

SEAN THORNTON

Injuries thwarted Thornton’s time at Sunderland and his departure in 2005 was followed by a career in the lower leagues. He retired earlier this year after a spell at Drogheda United.

DARREN BYFIELD

Byfield only spent a brief time at Sunderland and has now taken a spot in the dugout – managing Stratford Town of the Southern League Premier Division Central.