During it’s 20-year history, the Stadium of Light turf has been graced by some of the greats of the modern era playing for and against Sunderland.
But what is the greatest ever select Sunderland XI to have played at the stadium?
As part of our special 48-page supplement to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the Stadium of Light - which is on sale now - we asked readers to vote for their favourite players in every position to create THE best ever Sunderland team to have played at the stadium - and you responded in your thousands.
Today we can reveal the team – in a 4-4-2 formation – and we’re sure you’ll agree it would take some beating!
Thomas Sorensen (1998-2003):
The Danish stopper beat off competition from Simon Mignolet and Jordan Pickford to be named the greatest ever goalkeeper to have played for the Black Cats during the stadium’s 20-year history. He won 58 per cent of the vote.
Sorensen arrived at Sunderland for a near £1million fee in the summer of 1998 to replace Lionel Perez as the club’s No.1.
He made an instant impact with his agility, imposing presence and clean handling with Sorensen commanding his area with great authority.
He made 197 appearances in total for Sunderland and went on to play for Aston Villa and Stoke City, also making 101 appearances for Denmark.
Chris Makin (1997-2001):
The right-back slot is occupied by Chris Makin, who won 57 per cent of the vote, ahead of Phil Bardsley and Nedum Onuoha.
Popular Makin made 143 appearances including a superb run of consistent form for Sunderland’s watertight defence throughout the 1999 title-winning campaign.
After leaving Wearside the former England Under-21 international went on to play for Ipswich Town, Leicester City, Reading and Southampton.
Steve Bould (1999-2000):
Ex-Stoke City and Arsenal centre back Steve Bould only made 23 appearances during one season for Sunderland but he still makes your team after quickly establishing himself as a favourite.
Bould arrived for a fee of just £500,000 and following the departure of Kevin Ball he was made club captain, helping steer Sunderland to seventh in the Premier League.
Sunderland narrowly missed out on a UEFA Cup place that season. A rock at the heart of the Sunderland defence in one of the greatest seasons of the Stadium of Light era.
Jonny Evans (2006-2008):
Evans made 35 appearances for the Black Cats during two successful loan spells from parent club Manchester United.
The Norther Ireland international oozed class during his first spell between December 2006 and May 2007 and then again from January 2008. Evans was named young player of the year during his first spell as Sunderland won the league title.
Then boss Roy Keane wanted to keep him on a permanent deal but his long-term future lay at Manchester United, though he did return for a second loan spell.
Evans and Bould won 26 and 24 per cent of the public vote respectively beating John Mensah, John O’Shea, Emerson Thome and Nyron Nosworthy to make the best ever team.
Julio Arca (2000-2006)
The left-back slot was fiercely contested but Julio Arca came out on top with 38 per cent of the vote.
Michael Gray was second with 33 per cent and Danny Rose third with 29 per cent.Arca arrived at Sunderland as a left-back but was successfully converted into a midfielder by Peter Reid.
Arca made a total of 177 appearances for Sunderland during a successful six-year spell on Wearside including a Championship title win, firmly establishing himself as a terrace favourite.
Nicky Summerbee (1997-2000)
Summerbee joined Sunderland in a £1million swap deal, with Craig Russell moving in the opposition direction to Manchester City.
In Sunderland’s hugely successful 1998-1999 campaign, Summerbee played a key role providing the ammunition from the flanks for strike partnership Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips.
Sunderland scored 91 league and 17 cup goals that season. Summerbee a key player. The winger beat Steed Malbranque and Carlos Edwards to make your team.
Kevin Ball (1990-1999):
Sunderland have boasted some real midfield generals during the Stadium of Light years and it is no surprise to see Mr Sunderland, Kevin Ball make the team.
Ball, now a club ambassador, made 388 appearances during a nine-year spell, which included skippering the record-breaking 1999 First Division title-winning side.
The tough-tackling, ball-winning midfielder - with his never-say-die attitude - always wore his heart on his sleeve and the opposing midfielders always knew they’d been in a fierce contest.
Stefan Schwarz (1999-2002)
The Swedish midfielder, who had previously played for Benfica, Arsenal, Fiorentina and Valencia, made 76 appearances for the club. Helped Sunderland finish seventh in consecutive seasons in his first two years on Wearside.
Schwarz holds a FIFA Pro Licence and previously expressed an interest in returning to Sunderland as manager one day.
Ball and Schwarz make up our central midfield after coming out on top ahead of other shortlisted contenders; Alex Rae, Gavin McCann, Jordan Henderson and Lee Cattermole.
Allan Johnston (1997-1999):
The Scottish winger made 101 appearances for Sunderland. ‘Magic’ quickly became a favourite of the Stadium of Light faithful with his skilful play on the wings and eye for a goalscoring opportunity.
Johnston was a key player, linking up down the left with overlapping full-back Micky Gray as free-flowing Sunderland won the 1999 Division One title. The winger topped our poll with 68 per cent of the public vote – well ahead of Don Hutchison and Stephane Sessegnon.
He went on to play for Rangers, Middlesbrough, Kilmarnock and Queen of the South before going into management.
Niall Quinn (1996-2002) and Kevin Phillips (1997-2003)
These two need no introduction.
Phillips scored 130 goals in just 235 appearances for Sunderland, a stunning strike rate and his form at the Stadium of Light helped earn him an England call-up plus numerous accolades including the Premier League Golden Boot and the European Golden shoe.
A natural goalscorer, quick and always in the right place, at the right time. SuperKev in every sense of the word.
Phillips’ partnership with Quinn will go down in Sunderland folklore, the pair complimenting each other in clinical fashion.
Ex-Arsenal and Manchester City striker Quinn, in his 220 appearances for Sunderland scored 69 goals. The Little and Large combination reaped instant reward, with Quinn one of the very best targetmen in the country.
Quinn has done everything at Sunderland including a spell as chairman and brief spell in the manager’s hotseat.
Phillips and Quinn make up your strike force beating Jermain Defoe, Michael Bridges, Darren Bent and Djibril Cisse.