Clough or SuperKev or Marco?


Must be something to do with watching Diego Milito’s sublime finishing for Inter Milan last night and wondering whether he’s had time to consider a move to Sunderland, where he and Darren Bent could strike up a useful partnership – and challenge for places in our parade of best-ever strikers …

There are
things that happened last week that I barely remember. The memory of Brian Clough’s ultimately career-ending injury, colliding with Bury’s goalkeeper Chris Harker in the light snow of Roker Park, is so clear that it might have happened earlier today, rather than Boxing Day 1962.

Marco Gabbiadini? Many will vividly recall the day he scored a hat trick against Ipswich – March 25 1989 – and was sent off after an altercation with a defender after grabbing the third. I wasn’t there, but I was at Upton Park on Sept 17 1991 when another Marco hat trick helped us beat not West Ham but Charlton, temporarily homeless, immediately before his sale to Crystal Palace.

“He’s got the touch of a walrus,” a policeman in the away end kept saying, inexplicably pleased with his bons mots.

Which leaves Kevin Phillips among the trio of Sunderland strikers under “who was the best?” sort of scrutiny at the endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking Blackcats lists. My best memories of him include goals against Newcastle United, home and away (the one in the teeming rain at St James’ Park on Aug 25 1999 sounded fabulous even on the radio), at Swindon (May 3 1998), at QPR (Jan 9 1998) and over and over again as he raced toward his 2000 Golden Boot award.

In Salut! Sunderland‘s latest raid on fellow Blackcats subscribers’ wit and wisdom, then, the following edited comments stuck out: (someone had posed the question”Would Phillips get a game in a best ever SAFC XI if Clough was playing?” …


Well aware that opinions are like arseholes, as in we’ve all got one, but I firmly believe that Kev was by far the better player. I saw both on many occasions in their prime, and Cloughie scored almost all of his goals (all but 2, I think) in Div2, while Kev’s 30 goal Div1 season contained goals scored from everywhere, with both feet, and head. Cloughie didn’t score as many from long range, and didn’t get as involved in build up play. I don’t remember any one on ones at Roker, but it was about 50 years ago, so I could well be wrong… Clough was deadly inside the box, I do remember that, and he did love to score. He didn’t pass when he could shoot.


I agree about Clough being single-minded about scoring. But I don’t class that as a fault in a striker who reliably gets them all the time.


In addition to his goal scoring ability I always felt that SKP was actually a good footballer who contributed in other ways to the benefit of the team. My understanding is if Cloughie didn’t get on the score sheet he was a passenger.


Tom took words from my mouth. But a fairer point to make is that we just don’t know whether Cloughie could have been prolific in Div 1 too. I also wonder whether it happened for SuperKev, good as he was, partly because of the one off of his partnership with Niall Quinn.


Anyway, I agree that Cloughie’s single mindedness in front of goal was regarded as a strength by everyone. Alan Clarke -Sniffer- was similarly regarded, but that was about 10 years later. Maybe Gary Lineker 10 years after that, as well.


While realising that my view might be tainted by the fuzzy memory of childhood there is no doubt in my mind that Cloughie was the best centre forward I have ever seen in a Sunderland

Totally committed to scoring goals (which led to his knee injury against Bury) and Greaves like in his ability to know exactly what to do to get the ball in the net.


SK was a terrific finisher; there`s no doubt about that … (but) Kev was largely ineffectual without Quinny with whom he had an extraordinary partnership. Someone must have done the stats, but I always felt that Quinny was more effective without Kev than the other way around, and that the extraordinary achievements of SK overshadowed the contribution that Quinny made to this. Arguably Quinny was 75% of it. I think that this is largely borne out by Kev`s goal scoring since he left. He was nowhere near as prolific.


Brian Clough was a good distributor of the ball for his wingers. He wasn’t your dribbling type inside forward but he was a good line leader as well as goal scorer.

SKP’s star had started to wane at Sunderland well before he left. You can actually pick out a game – it stands out like a sore thumb – the 0-0 home draw with Bradford City in Jan 2001. Before then he was sensational. After then he was just another Premier League striker.


I didn’t miss a home game (and few away ones) in 00/01 and after Christmas SK was having to come back constantly and get the ball from midfield; he was literally the ONLY good thing about SAFC from about Feb 2001 and really didn’t get the props he deserved for it, just whinging about his lack of goals.

What Clough wouldn’t have done is just give up the following season like SKP did once he realised we were doomed. Kev was a much better footballer than most gave him credit for; and to bring in the 3rd candidate in what has now
become “our best ever forward” thread, I think his playing and goalscoring almost exactly paralleled Marco’s once he left us though Kev was a stronger finisher and Marco a much more creative forward. The fact that he got as
many goals as he did was definitely down to Quinn, Nick Summerbee and a nice stroke of luck with Lee Clark, then Alex Rae and then Don Hutchison all having hot streaks. But his decline was not (initially) for lack of trying.

I’ve only ever seen film of Clough playing for SAFC, before my time. Of the two I have seen a lot of, Marco was the more natural footballer but probably less so than made out; Kev was good in his own right. The fact that SKP had
NQ and Marco had… a much past his prime Gatesy can’t really be ignored (no disrespect to Eric Gates, he had his moments and his last goal was probably the most satisfying Sunderland goal ever). That said I don’t think I’ve ever
seen a better goal the one SKP scored against Swindon, as the smogs went up and we went to Wembley and on to that penalty miss; I think everyone there that day knew he’d he was something special.

I really can’t decide; Marco had a greater contribution, Kev’s efforts were in a more stringent era and division. Clough I’m not qualified to comment on.


With (Mike) on that. SK became, because he had to, really good in midfield and I have always been convinced since then that while his principal asset was, of course, as a goalscorer par excellence, he could have been transformed in a better side (ie any side by then), with other marksmen, into the sort of player we lack now: creative, scoring midfielder.


I occasionally went to Boro as a kid – mainly just to see this goal machine Clough and was therefore delighted when he joined us. I recall most of his crosses at Ayresome were supllied by Lindy Delaphena. There’s a name from the depths of my memory.

So I was left sitting on the fence, wishing I’d been able to see a fully fit Cloughie in the old Division One, admiring the skills and achievements of Marco but recognising that Kevin Phillips plied his trade at a higher level (though he was also part of a phenomenal partnership, and a team that at times played stirring attacking football, of the sort strikers must dream of).

And there it petered out, doubtless to be brought back to life in due course with some further intriguing thoughts from any of the continents where Blackcats find themselves.

Colin Randall

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