Monday 22 October 2018

Old boys put Sunderland ahead of Euro giants Real and Juventus

Three of their former players are in Gareth Southgate’s England squad, most notably academy product Jordan Henderson. Photo: Reuters
Three of their former players are in Gareth Southgate’s England squad, most notably academy product Jordan Henderson. Photo: Reuters

Jack Tarrant

Sunderland have spent the last two seasons in freefall, but their long-suffering fans can take pride in the fact they have more former players involved in the World Cup quarter-finals than many European giants.

Data analysts at BetVictor found that a total of nine Sunderland players past and present are involved in the World Cup last-eight, which is more than Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Juventus can boast.

Sunderland are rebuilding following consecutive relegations that have seen them drop from the Premier League to League One.

Three of their former players are in Gareth Southgate's England squad, most notably academy product Jordan Henderson. The central midfielder was sold to Liverpool for £20 million in the summer of 2011. England penalty hero Jordan Pickford is another academy graduate, who moved to Everton last summer following Sunderland's relegation.

Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck also had loan spells at the Stadium of Light, though both have spent most of England's World Cup campaign on the bench.

Tomorrow England face Sweden, who have Sebastian Larsson in their 23-man squad though the set-piece specialist missed the match against Switzerland.

back-up Belgium meet Brazil in the pick of the quarter-finals today, and former Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is Roberto Martinez's back-up stopper. Adnan Januzaj, who scored against England in the group stage, is also likely to be on the bench and is another former Sunderland loanee.

Uruguay face France in today's other last-eight tie and Sunderland fans could get the chance to see former defender Sebastian Coates.

Analysts explored the career history of every player in the eight quarter-final nations to determine which clubs have had the most talent through their hands.

Manchester City under Pep Guardiola have the most players with 15, including England starters Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling and Belgium playmaker Kevin De Bruyne.

Spain's 2010 world champions had a squad containing seven players managed by then-Barcelona coach Guardiola, while four years ago in Brazil the Spaniard's Bayern Munich side also had seven representatives in Germany's World Cup-winning team.

With Guardiola among the world's top managers and with his teams possessing enviable talent, it is perhaps no surprise that his influence has been felt.

If history is to repeat itself and City's success is replicated by the national team in the World Cup final then England fans may just have a Catalan to thank.

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