CHRIS YOUNG and GRAEME ANDERSON continue their views on Sunderland’s incredible campaign – and the way ahead.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE BY A SUNDERLAND PLAYER?
GA: Maybe because it is most recent, Lee Cattermole’s virtuoso performance against West Brom stands out.
When Cattermole is truly on song, like he was that night, he is something to behold.
He tackles like a train, passes long, as well as short, impressively and pops up everywhere, all over the pitch.
It’s a great sight to see any one player grabbing a game by the scruff of the neck and dictating it and that’s what Cattermole did when Albion came calling.
Adam Johnson’s hat-trick performance against Fulham at Craven Cottage also deserves mention – the winger was on fire in a game which was so important to Sunderland.
I also think Vito Mannone deserves credit for several games where he was simply the difference between defeats and draws. And the same goes for Wes Brown – there were some games where he simply gave a defensive masterclass.
CY: Even when Sunderland reached the verge of Premier League survival, there were still flutters of anxiety that they would somehow contrive to take a step back towards the trapdoor.
But the response against West Brom last week was emphatic, with the platform for victory stemming from a colossal display by Lee Cattermole.
The Teessider has shown at various stages of his Sunderland career how influential he can be at his best – the first half of the Capital One Cup final was a prime example.
But Cattermole set the tone against the Baggies, dominating midfield and rightly earning a standing ovation when he left the field in the final minutes.
After starting the season as persona non grata under Paolo Di Canio, Cattermole was key to Sunderland averting disaster and remaining in the Premier League.
GOAL OF THE SEASON?
GA: I’m cheating here by picking three goals, but hoping to get away with it because they’re all scored by one player!
My first might be controversial because it is only a penalty. But Borini’s driven spot-kick against Tim Krul at St James’s Park, to give Sunderland the lead in February, offered one of the most iconic goal celebrations of the season. The powerful, confident shot struck high to Krul’s right was all but unstoppable for a keeper and it typified utter coolness under pressure which is the quality of a world class striker.
My second, and personal favourite, is Borini’s winner against Newcastle at the Stadium of Light, a bullet from range which was audacious, imaginative and utterly brilliant and as dramatic a way as any to win a derby game.
But goal of the season should probably be given to the Italian’s strike against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final – a goal of the highest quality, secured on the biggest stage against the team that would finish the season as Premier League champions.
Mind you, anyone who says I’m talking nonsense and it should be Phil Bardsley’s thunderbolt against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg – a goal which deserved to win any game – I’m not argue.
CY: Without Connor Wickham’s goals, it’s difficult to envisage that Sunderland would have been able to stay up.
But his second at Manchester City combined elegance with importance, in the game which began the Great Escape.
It was a brilliant counter-attack from Emanuele Giaccherini before delivering an inch-perfect pass into the path of Wickham.
The finish which saw Wickham lash the ball unstoppably beyond Joe Hart demonstrated the 21-year-old’s coming of age.