Chris Young and Richard Mennear highlight the good, the bad and the ugly of the last 12 months for Sunderland

With the dust settling on another Premier League campaign, our Sunderland writers reflect on an eventful 12-months at the Stadium of Light:

Friday, 20th May 2016, 11:00 am
Big Sam Allardyce can dance!

Chris Young:

Highlight of the season

Although the 3-0 win over Everton secured Sunderland’s survival, the stunning comeback against Chelsea four days earlier was the one which put Newcastle and Norwich on the brink.

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As I said at the time, for me, that was arguably the greatest day in the Stadium of Light’s history.

Lowlight of the season

There have been many! Adam Johnson, Margaret Byrne and Emmanuel Eboue immediately spring to mind in an awful campaign off-the-field.

But football-wise, there were few more sickening feelings than Southampton’s last-gasp equaliser at St Mary’s.

It felt like a hammer blow which would cost Sunderland.

Best game

Dick Advocaat’s final match at the helm, the 2-2 draw against West Ham, was a bombardment to the senses.

For the first half, Sunderland were utterly terrific, went 2-0 up and Jeremain Lens scored a worldie.

Dick cried... again. Then Lens got sent off, Sunderland threw away the lead and ended up with a point. Breathless.

Worst game

A trip to Stoke is never a highlight on the footballing calendar, but the 1-1 draw there last month was an absolute shocker, as the nerves got to Sunderland’s players for the one and only time during the relegation battle.

At least Jermain Defoe’s last-gasp penalty rescued a point.

Best goal

As an individual effort, I don’t think you can better that Lens 25-yard chip against the Hammers.

But as a team move, I thought Jermain Defoe’s goal at Norwich was a beauty.

It embodied everything Sam Allardyce wants to see from his teams.

Best signing

Take your pick from the January boys! Without the trio of Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff, Sunderland would not be where they are now after they completely transformed the side both on and off-the-pitch.

Yann M’Vila deserves a special mention too after buying into the whole ethos of the club.

Worst signing

Sunderland had all-but-agreed a one-year contract extension for Anthony Reveillere to remain as a back-up right-back.

Then they decided to scrap that plan and splash out £2million of a limited budget on Adam Matthews. It wasn’t a wise move...

Funniest moment of the season

Sam Allardyce’s impromptu dance routine in the post-match lap of honour against Everton and then the chants of “Big Sam Allardyce, we want you to dance” from the away end at Watford four days later. He didn’t oblige.

What should Sunderland’s priority be in the summer transfer market?

Sunderland need four or five players of genuine quality who can ensure that the last four months avoid becoming yet another false dawn.

But before all that, the BIG priority has to be keeping hold of M’Vila.

It won’t be easy, particularly when negotiating with Ruben Kazan, but he’s a player to build a team around.

What should Sunderland’s goal be for next season?

The same as it was last summer, and the summer before that, and the summer before that.

Sunderland can’t afford to keep playing with fire. They need to finally achieve that lofty goal of mid-table solidity. Any finish in the 10th to 14th bracket would be major progress.

Richard Mennear:

Highlight of the season

The comeback win over Chelsea will live long in the memory for the incredible atmosphere.

But for me the four first half minutes between Patrick van Aanholt’s opener and Lamine Kone’s first against Everton were the highlight.

That’s when Sunderland knew they were safe and had relegated rivals Newcastle United in the process.

Incredible scenes at the Stadium of Light.

Lowlight of the season

A run of off-the-field problems threatened to overshadow the entire season, with Adam Johnson’s sacking, conviction and subsequent fallout the undoubted lowlight of the campaign.

Credit to Sam Allardyce and the squad for coming through that to end the season on such a high.

Best game

The 3-2 win over Chelsea was the game of the season for me.

Norwich City away and Newcastle United at home ran it close. But the Chelsea game had everything.

Clinical finishing, a stunning comeback and the best atmosphere for years. Oh, and John Terry was sent off.

Worst game

Stoke City away was grim, Everton away calamitous, but the games at Chelsea and Manchester City, which saw Sunderland ship a total of five goals inside the opening 22 minutes, topped the lot.

Survival hopes looked very slim back in the miserable month of December.

Best goal

Wahbi Khazri at home to Chelsea. Stunning technique, perfectly executed.

It was overshadowed as Sunderland came back from 2-1 down to win, but this stunning volley was goal of the season.

Best signing

Jan Kirchhoff. Without a doubt. His debut at Tottenham Hotspur has gone down in history, but thankfully he turned his – and Sunderland’s fortunes – around in fine fashion.

He set the tone in the holding midfield role as Sunderland went on to secure safety with a game to spare. A bargain at £750,000.

Worst signing

Jeremain Lens. The Dutchman has undoubted talent, but his character leaves a lot to be desired.

Doesn’t work hard enough or make the most of his natural talent. A big disappointment.

Funniest moment of the season

The sold-out away support at Watford on the final day of the season.

Non-stop singing throughout, with fans going through the entire ‘A-to-Z of how to mock Newcastle United.’

What should Sunderland’s priority be in the summer transfer market?

Secure the future of Yann M’Vila has to be priority number one. But the main priority will be to add another goalscorer to the squad.

Sunderland cannot solely rely on Jermain Defoe to hit the same heights again.

What should Sunderland’s goal be for next season?

Mid-table mediocrity. And under Sam Allardyce they have the best man at the helm to achieve just that.

A good summer transfer market and a much-improved pre-season will help on that front.