Jack Ross sacked but Sunderland up '“ here's how Football Manager 2019 predicted the Black Cats' season
Ahead of its November 2 release, we've been test-drivingÂ Football Manager 2019, the latest edition in the sports-strategy series.
Here’s what happened when we put the game into autopilot mode – and simulated Sunderland's current League One season.
Transfers: in and outs
On top of the 12 players Jack Ross had already acquired this summer, Stewart Donald sanctioned three further transfers - including a Netherlands international in Luciano Narsingh from Swansea City on loan.
Brazilian midfielder Doka Madureria was the next to arrive from Ankaragucu on a free transfer - however would last just six months on Wearside after Alanyaspor paid £71k to take him back to Turkey. The loan signing of Southampton striker Sam Gallagher completed Sunderland's transfer business for the 2018 summer.
In a bid to aid their promotion push, Sunderland added SIX new faces to their squad in January.
Despite appearing in 20 League One games, Glenn Loovens' stay at the Stadium of Light was a short one after he moved to Dutch side De Graanfschap on New Years Day. Robbin Ruiter joined Loovens in Holland, switching to ADO Den Haag for £115k.
Putting his recent injury problems behind him, Duncan Watmore earned a switch to Norwich City with the club more than happy to collect £5.75million for his services.
That allowed the Black Cats to invest in a further three players in CJ Hamilton (575k) from Mansfield Town, Raphael Assibey-Mensah (free), who was loaned straight out to Kaiserslautern and Joe Mason (525k) from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Sunderland closed their chequebook following the arrival of Daniel Johnson (£3.6million) from Preston North End while Max Stryjek was allowed to join Polish side Burk-Bet Termalica Nieciecza.
It took time for the new-look team to gel - and Jack Ross sadly paid the price.
With just six wins from 17 matches and the club stuck in mid-table mediocrity, Ross was sacked following a 1-0 away defeat at Plymouth Argyle in November.
His replacement? Former Swansea City manager Francesco Guidolin, whose appointment sparked an instant revival - losing just twice in his opening nine league games.
A rocky start to 2019 followed but Guidolin steadied the ship. He won eight of his 16 games after January, drawing and losing four to comfortably secure third place, in the end.
And so it came down to the playoffs...
Sunderland faced Bristol Rovers in the playoffs - first travelling to Memorial Stadium and carrying a 0-0 draw back to the Stadium of Light.
And it took just one minute for the Black Cats to breach the The Pirates' defence on Wearside through Luke O'Nien.
January signing Joe Mason had Sunderland cruising on the half-hour mark before George Honeyman netted with 20 minutes to go and guarantee his side's place at Wembley.
Sunderland fans could hardly catch their breath following a day of late, late, late drama.
Victor Adeboyejo's 19th-minute strike meant Guidolin's side were just THREE minutes away from being condemned to another season in League One.
However, captain Honeyman, stepped up again, sending the game into extra-time.
And if that wasn't enough to get the heart well and truly pumping, Josh Maja announced his place in Sunderland folklore, scoring a 119th-minute winner, just as both sides looked set for penalties.
Checkatrade Trophy, Carabao Cup and FA Cup
Sunderland beat Newcastle U23s 2-0 in the Checkatrade Trophy group stage but eventually lost to Accrington Stanley in the third round.
Ipswich Town and Forest Green fell to defeats against the Black Cats, although a trip to Milwall signalled one step too far in the Carabao Cup.
The FA Cup presented Sunderland with favourable draws against Tranmere Rovers, Northampton Town and Newport County as they reached the fourth round before losing at home to Wigan Athletic.