·29 September 2023
·29 September 2023
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Tony Mowbray's men have started the 2023-24 Championship season with a bang. Possessing a starting XI which has an average age of 22.3 years old, the Black Cats have the youngest, and most exciting side in the second-tier. After three wins in their last three league games, Sunderland were on course for their fourth consecutive win as they went into Sunday afternoon's fixture with Cardiff City.
Unfortunately, for those of a red and white persuasion, the Bluebirds had their own ideas, stealing a last-gasp winner in the game's dying embers, putting to bed any Sunderland hopes of registering four league wins on the bounce for the first time in almost a decade. The club's last winning streak of that length came at the back end of the 2013-14 season under Gus Poyet, where they narrowly avoided relegation, beating Chelsea, Cardiff, Manchester United, and West Brom on their way to survival. Let's take a look at who was featuring for Sunderland during that period...
"Oh, Vito Mannone" could regularly be heard reverberating around the Stadium of Light during the Italian's heyday, having become somewhat of a cult-hero on Wearside during his four-year spell with the Black Cats. The shot-stopper, who made his name at Arsenal, joined Sunderland under the premise that he would be the club's number one in 2013. Signing for £2 million under the controversial, Paolo Di Canio, Mannone would go on to make 80 appearances for the club, keeping 22 clean sheets. Leaving the Stadium of Light in 2017, the same season Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League, Mannone joined Reading.
Having played for five clubs since leaving for the Royals six years ago, including, Minnesota United, Monaco, and Lorient, the 6'2 goalkeeper currently finds himself at Lille during the twilight of his career. The 35-year-old linked up with Les Dogues in August 2023. Behind the talented, young France under-21 international, Lucas Chevalier in the pecking order, Mannone is yet to make an appearance for his new club, and one would suspect his seasoned experience will come in-handy when nurturing his goalkeeping counterpart.
A centre-back by trade, Santiago Vergini was filling in at right-back for the Mackems during this run due to mainstay, Phil Bardsley being out with a fractured foot. Predominantly remembered on Wearside for his calamitous own goal in an 8-0 away defeat to Southampton, the Argentine always seemed to be an accident waiting to happen.
Following a string of moves once he departed the North East in 2016, Vergini would find himself plying his trade back in his native confines of Argentina for the likes of Boca Juniors, San Lorenzo, and Atletico Tucuman.
Without a club to call home after being released by San Lorenzo, the player made the executive decision to hang up his boots in 2021 at the age of 33, having racked up 272 senior appearances, as well as three caps for the Argentina national side.
The man who famously channelled his inner-Messi while playing for Manchester United against Arsenal, where he chipped Manuel Almunia from outside the box, tallied 256 appearances at Sunderland, captaining the side through arguably its toughest period as a top-flight club.
While that dink at Highbury in 2005 was one of many a high for the Red Devils, his fate at Sunderland couldn't have been more dissimilar, perennially staving off the threat of relegation and adjusting to a perpetual, merry-go-round of managerial appointments.
Following the club's catastrophic relegation to League One in 2018, O'Shea headed to Reading for the 2018-19 campaign before retiring in 2019. Since calling it quits, O'Shea has held a number of coaching positions at Reading, Stoke, and within the Republic of Ireland setup.
The centre-back partnership of O'Shea and Wes Brown often seemed like a bit of a throwback even when the pair first joined Sunderland in 2011, so it perhaps goes some way to explaining Sunderland's lack of direction and eventual demise during their time with the club.
Retiring after a season-long stint with Kerala Busters in the Indian Super League in 2018, the former England international and Premier League winner is now a fully-fledged UEFA 'A' Licence holder and has embarked on a career in coaching, as well as being a regular feature on MUTV's match-day coverage. In 2023, it was declared that Brown had been rendered bankrupt after losing millions in car and property dealings.
Marcos Alonso has, by some distance, gone on to become the most successful member of the Sunderland side that went on a four-game winning run back in 2014. The Spanish fullback joined Chelsea in 2016 and was integral to the Blues' title-winning campaign under Antonio Conte a year later. Spending six years in West London, scooping a Premier League and Champions League title in that period, Alonso returned to Spain to sign for Xavi's Barcelona in 2022 as part of the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang deal.
The technically gifted left-back, who has knocked in 45 goals during his career, remains in Catalonia to this day. The 32-year-old has largely been preferred by Xavi as his first-choice left-back at the Camp Nou, with the player netting three times in 40 appearances.
Having built a name for himself as a walking red card, Lee Cattermole's propensity to get himself into trouble with the law both on and off the pitch often saw his reputation precede him. The former Middlesbrough captain spent over a decade with the Wearsiders, recording 262 appearances. One of few players to represent the club in the Premier League, Championship, and League One, Cattermole would head for pastures new in 2019, joining Eredivisie side, VVV Venlo before calling time on his playing days in 2020.
Taking up the role as Middlesbrough under-18s head coach in January 2022, and even serving as the club's assistant manager under interim boss Leo Percovich, Cattermole announced he would be leaving the position at the end of the season in February 2023 in order to pursue the next step in his managerial journey.
Earning his stripes as an Arsenal youth prodigy, the Swede's formative footballing education under Arsene Wenger's mentorship was always present in his ability throughout his professional career. Larsson would spend six years with Sunderland having signed from Birmingham City in 2011 on a free transfer.
Renowned for his wicked finesse, and dead-ball expertise, ranking him second for most goals scored from free-kicks in Premier League history, Larsson featured in every one of the club's four victories, scoring the only goal in Sunderland's historic away win at Old Trafford
Leaving Sunderland in 2017, the midfielder would spend a year down the road at Hull, before heading back to Scandinavia where he'd see out the rest of his career at AIK in Sweden. Now embarking on his coaching badges, Larsson appears to be enjoying retirement with his young family back home in Sweden, where he is involved in the AIK coaching setup.
Having been at the club since the age of 10, the ginger midfielder was the only product of the Sunderland Academy that starred in this run of games. Colback made 135 appearances during his time with the club, before he did the unthinkable, and switched the red and white of the Wear for the black and white of the Tyne, in one of the most traitorous moves of all time.
Nine years on, Colback is now playing his football in the Championship for Gareth Ainsworth's QPR. The 33-year-old recently came up against his former side in a second-tier showdown and was sensationally sent off, much to the delight of the travelling Sunderland fans.
Fabio Borino immediately endeared himself to Sunderland fans by leathering home the winner in the Wear-Tyne derby in October 2013 while on loan. The Italian forward featured for the side on 40 occasions during the 2013-14 campaign, memorably scoring Sunderland's only goal in the 2014 League Cup Final.
Scoring two of the Black Cats' nine goals in the four-game winning run, the Italy international inscribed his name into Sunderland folklore. Since leaving the North East, Borini has gone on to represent the likes of AC Milan, Hellas Verona, and is currently turning out for Serie B side, Sampdoria, having joined up with head coach, Andrea Pirlo during the 2023 summer transfer window. The 32-year-old has played every game for I Bluerchiati this term, although he has yet to register a goal.
The Premier League winner arrived at Wearside in 2012, making 141 appearances during a four-year spell with the club. Sentenced to six years in prison in 2016, the ex-England international has since been released, and unsurprisingly, has kept a low profile.
Once a hotly-tipped centre-forward, Connor Wickham signed for Sunderland for £8 million in 2011 at the age of 18. After an initially slow start to his time at the Stadium of Light, the 6'3 striker found his scoring boots when it mattered most, scoring five goals in Sunderland's last six games during the 2013-14 season.
Quitting Wearside in 2015, Wickham spent six years at Crystal Palace before playing for a string of sides, including Preston, MK Dons, Forest Green, and Cardiff, remarkably, all within the space of a year. Currently, without a club, the 30-year-old is still very much in the market to continue his playing career according to reports.