Our writers’ winners and losers of North East football in 2015 – and hopes for 2016

Jermain Defoe celebrates his derby stunner
Jermain Defoe celebrates his derby stunner
0
Have your say

North East football fans are hoping for a much brighter 2016 for their respective teams.

Sunderland, Newcastle United and Hartlepool United all battled relegation in 2015, while Middlesbrough tasted play-off final heartache at Wembley.

Duncan Watmore

Duncan Watmore

On the bright side, Sunderland Ladies excelled and the non-league scene is alive and kicking in this part of the world.

Our team of writers reflect on the previous 12-months, sharing their memories and revealing their winners and losers.

CHRIS YOUNG, SUNDERLAND REPORTER

Most memorable moment?

Jonas Gutierrez and John Carver

Jonas Gutierrez and John Carver

Dick Advocaat and his tears at Arsenal. To see Sunderland get under the skin of a 67-year-old veteran of the dug-out, who had managed at World Cups, European Championships and in the Champions League, was something.

Team of the year?

Amidst a dreadful lack of success in North East football, Sunderland Ladies stood out a mile; going so close to lifting the Women’s Super League in their maiden year in the competition. It would be nice if their efforts were recognised by the big television broadcasters.

Manager of the year?

Beth Mead

Beth Mead

It’s gone a bit sour this season, but Ronnie Moore’s efforts in keeping Hartlepool in League Two arguably exceeded Sunderland’s from the Great Escape.

Who has excelled in 2015?

Duncan Watmore. It’s so refreshing to see a young, hungry footballer who is completely uninterested in the trappings of his profession. He deserves all the success he gets.

Who has been the biggest flop?

South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson

South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson

Take your pick! Just for the price tag, I have to say Jeremain Lens. Not because of a lack of ability, far from it in fact. But with the quality he has, he really should be giving Sunderland better value for money.

What was your game of the year and why?

April’s Wear-Tyne derby victory was arguably the greatest Stadium of Light game ever. The Bank Holiday sunshine and beers were aplenty, Sunderland comprehensively dominated a woeful Newcastle side and it led to a white-hot atmosphere.

Goal of the year?

Again in the Wear-Tyne derby. Jermain Defoe’s volley was a Roy of the Rovers worldie.

One to watch out for in 2016?

Ronnie Moore celebrating with Hartlepool United fans at the end of the game against Carlisle United

Ronnie Moore celebrating with Hartlepool United fans at the end of the game against Carlisle United

Sunderland have got two players in their first year as regulars with the U21s, Ethan Robson and Rees Greenwood, who have genuine chances of making the grade. They’ve both been training with the first-team over recent weeks and need to maintain their progress.

Biggest change you’d like to see in North East football?

An end to the cycle of annual struggle. Some genuinely adequate recruitment, rather than constant sticky-back plaster solutions, would go a long, long way.

ROSS GREGORY, HEAD OF SPORT

Most memorable moment?

For pure emotion, Jonas Gutierrez’s celebration against West Ham on the final day of the season which confirmed Newcastle’s survival and marked a fitting end to his battle against cancer. For shock value, the sight (and squeaky sound) of Mike Ashley doing a TV interview that same game!

Team of the year?

Sunderland Ladies, without a shadow of a doubt. Fantastic first season in the Super League. Special mention to Mark Collingwood’s Seaham Red Star too.

Manager of the year?

Ronnie Moore deserves a shout for guiding Hartlepool to their Great Escape but Carlton Fairweather gets the nod for his work with SAFC Ladies.

Who has excelled in 2015?

In the professional game? No one, really. Actually, scrap that – Beth Mead has been the star of the year. On the non-league front, step forward South Shields’ committee. Kept the club going in difficult circumstances and got their rewards after persuading Geoff Thompson to take over.

Who has been the biggest flop?

Where to start? There’s so many. Take your pick from John Carver, Lee Charnley, Mike Ashley, Ellis Short, Florian Thauvin, Jeremaine Lens...

What was your game of the year and why?

This season’s Wear-Tyne derby had pretty much everything – controversy, a red card and some great football by both sides.

Goal of the year?

No contest – it has to be Jermain Defoe’s derby stunner back in April. What. A. Strike.

One to watch out for in 2016?

South Shields FC. The future looks very bright.

Biggest change you’d like to see in North East football?

Success on the pitch. The fans deserve it.

RICHARD MENNEAR, SPORTS REPORTER

Most memorable moment?

4.50pm. Saturday, April 25. The day Hartlepool United secured their Football League status. The emotions that day ranged from hope, to despair to sheer jubilation. It was a privilege to be there after 10-months battling relegation. The Greatest of Escapes.

Team of the year?

Jointly awarded to Middlesbrough and Sunderland Ladies. Aitor Karanka led his Boro side to the Play-Off final only to be tipped at the final hurdle. They look set for automatic promotion this season though. Sunderland Ladies excelled in the Super League.

Manager of the year?

Ronnie Moore. Without a shadow of doubt. He was named Pools boss in December last year and despite a shaky start slowly led the club to safety. Has come in for stick this season after another season of struggle but his achievements last season deserved national recognition.

Who has excelled in 2015?

Duncan Watmore has done well at Sunderland, Beth Mead from the Ladies side scooped a hatful of awards and an England call-up, George Friend and Ben Gibson at Boro.

Who has been the biggest flop?

John Carver, Jack Compton (has natural ability but has wasted it at every club he has played for), Jeremain Lens and the respective boards of Newcastle and Sunderland AFC.

What was your game of the year and why?

Carlisle United v Hartlepool United on the final day of last season. The Pools bus breaking down en-route, the Reggae/Bob Marley-themed away fans, Ronnie Moore donning a hat and wig and the game ending 3-3 after Pools came back from 3-0 down. It summed up the 2014-15 campaign perfectly.

Goal of the year?

Three for me. Jermain Defoe’s Derby Day winner was stunning. Michael Duckworth’s thunderbolt at Carlisle and Billy Paynter’s goal at York City this season.

One to watch out for in 2016?

It will be interesting to see how Watmore develops. And to hopefully see Dimi Konstantopoulos in the Premier League at the age of 37 - nine years after leaving Pools.

Biggest change you’d like to see in North East football?

Success, goals and flair on the pitch and long-term planning off it with proper recruitment.

MILES STARFORTH, NEWCASTLE REPORTER

Most memorable moment?

The one, indellible highlight of 2015 for Newcastle United came on the final day of last season. The relegation-threatened club needed a super-hero – and it had one in Jonas Gutierrez, long known as Spider-Man. Months after being given the all-clear from cancer following treatment in his native Argentina, he scored in a 2-0 win over West Ham United. Inspirational.

Team of the year?

No contest. Sunderland Ladies had a fantastic first season in the Women’s Super League.

Manager of the year?

Things haven’t gone to plan this season, but the job Ronnie Moore did after taking charge of seemingly-doomed Hartlepool United was incredible.

Who has excelled in 2015?

It was forgettable year for Newcastle United, but one player caught the imagination of fans. And that player was Ayoze Perez. Signed as an unknown, Perez is very much a known quantity in the Premier League now. The forward backs up his gift with graft, and thanks in large part to his goals, United stayed up last season.

Who has been the biggest flop?

It’s too early to judge Florian Thauvin, but let’s hope he enjoys more longevity at St James’s Park than Remy Cabella, who left for Olympique Marseille a year after arriving at the club. Cabella promised much but delivered little, though we saw a few glimpses of the technique and talent that turned the head of chief scout Graham Carr.

What was your game of the year and why?

Highlights were few and far between last year, but the final game of last season – the 2-0 win over West Ham United – was a bright end to a largely bleak campaign thanks to the match-winning contribution of Jonas Gutierrez, a player who had been fighting cancer when the campaign kicked off.

Goal of the year?

It wasn’t the best goal, but Jonas Gutierrez’s strike against West Ham United, and his emotion-filled celebration, on the final day of last season was by far the most memorable. It was also a fitting end to Gutierrez’s career at St James’s Park.

One to watch out for in 2016?

Steve McClaren will resist the temptation to bring Adam Armstrong, on a half-season loan at Coventry City, back to Newcastle United this month. If the forward maintain his League One form for the entire season, he should be ready to make an impression in a higher division when he returns in the summer.

Biggest change you’d like to see in North East football?

Is some success too much to ask?