PROBABLY the least surprising verdict in our Survey 2013 was that readers endorsed the Supporters’ Association’s decision to vote Simon Mignolet Sunderland’s 2012-13 Player of the Season.
The Belgian stopper also won the North East Sports Writers’ Footballer of the Year award for the best footballer in the North East over 2012.
And respondents in our survey felt that he fully deserved that recognition.
He won the accolade in our survey by a landslide, with nearest challenger Danny Rose trailing in his wake and top scorer Steven Fletcher even further back in the slipstream.
Intriguingly, the lack of votes for Fletcher seemed to suggest fans have short memories.
He was the only Sunderland player to score double figures this season, following his £12million move from Wolves.
But the fact that he was top scorer seemed to weigh little with readers, so perhaps the fact his season was ended by injury in March, or that he only scored three goals in 2013, counted against him.
Loan star Rose proved surprisingly popular – something which Paolo Di Canio and Ellis Short might reflect on this summer – that a serious contender for Sunderland’s best player last season wasn’t even on the club’s books!
But far away at the top of the pile – and no-one could argue the honour was not in safe hands – was Mignolet.
The Belgian ensured that Sunderland’s clean sheets in the league last season stretched into double figures.
Ever-present in the Premier League in 2012-13, consistently good performances from him and a string of fabulous stops protected the goal difference.
It was that goal difference – so much more favourable than their relegation rivals – which was one of the few good things Sunderland fans could cling on to as the club slid towards the relegation zone at the back end of the season.
“Without him, we would have been relegated, simple as that,” said John Lowe of Petersfield.
“How did he miss out on the PFA team of the season? David De Gea? Give us a break!” raged Norman Haikney of Edinburgh.
Julian Smith, of New Zealand, said: “Sunderland would have gone down with a lesser keeper, so to lose him would be alarming.
“I think he is among the best six keepers in the world and probably the best in England.”
“Without Mignolet’s saves, we would have been relegated by Easter,” said John Ingram of Sunderland.
“The Tottenham performance was just a fitting finale to the way he performed all season,” said MJB of Oxfordshire.
And Derek Baxter, of British Columbia in Canada, offered: “Mignolet is player of the season by a country mile. He had to be worth at least eight points on our season.”
Having crowned him Sunderland’s best player though, fans were equally worried that next season he might not be at the Stadium of Light and made it clear they want their favourite wearing the Black Cats’ colours when the new campaign gets underway.
“Do not sell at any price,” warned Gillian Hill, of Rickmansworth.
“Please don’t sell,” said Trevor Gilmore, of Cornwall.
“We must keep him at all cost,” said Michael Lamb, of Ryhope.
“He must stay at the club,” said Steve Lamb, of Southampton.