EVERY conceivable objective which Sunderland’s hierarchy set at the start of the season has been met.
Survival, a respectable league finish, derby euphoria and a trip to Wembley.
Coupled with the drama of the Great Escape, what more could realistically have been asked?
The danger now is that this fairytale over the last month masks the deficiencies which have been present at the Stadium of Light for too long.
The perilous plight which left nerves frayed for the majority of the campaign, cannot be swept away and forgotten.
Gus Poyet certainly won’t ignore it.
The Uruguayan went public with his concerns a month ago that there was something inherently wrong at the Stadium of Light.
Poyet wants more control in what happens at the club. He wants a set of standards introducing for the players. He wants to be the manager, rather than the head coach.
Importantly, he also wants a new contract, with only a year left to run on his current deal.
That is where the speculation stems from regarding Poyet’s future. Will he get what he wants?
Poyet brushed aside the rumour mill after the conclusion of yesterday’s 3-1 defeat to Swansea; insisting he fully expects to be Sunderland manager at the start of next season.
It would be a huge shock if Poyet and Sunderland were to part company.
Whatever the rumblings and whispers, Poyet is committed to the job he has begun, has clearly formed a bond with supporters and is well on with his planning for next season.
With the former Brighton manager’s stock as high as it currently is, there would be all-out rebellion from supporters if he was to depart too.
The repeated chants hailing Poyet throughout yesterday’s game, and during the lap of honour, were evidence of his understandable popularity after overseeing such a remarkable escape from the jaws of relegation.
But presuming that Poyet and the club continue along amicably, there is still a huge amount of work to be done this summer.
Ellis Short is not ignorant of that.
“There is obviously a lot to do this summer and I can assure you that we will all be working together on that,” he said in his programme notes yesterday.
Defeat to Swansea was simply a reminder of that.
Sunderland improved as the encounter wore on and players can certainly be forgiven for seeing their intensity levels drop after the euphoria of securing Premier League survival three days earlier.
It was perhaps inevitable that there would be a lull. It was why it was a surprise that Poyet’s changes were limited to only two.
In the opening 20 minutes, when Swansea created that unassailable advantage, the visitors repeatedly won the 50-50s, mopped up the loose balls and enjoyed possession without a great deal of pressure being put on them. It was exactly what Sunderland have done so well over recent weeks.
Sunderland’s defending was brittle too as the visitors repeatedly picked out holes inside the full-backs – most notably as Phil Bardsley was exposed for the opener.
The Black Cats eventually began to get a grip and matched Swansea for long periods, but, as has been the case for much of this season, they struggled to foster those clear-cut opportunities on their own turf.
A tally of 11 defeats in 19 league games at the Stadium of Light tells its own story about where Sunderland need a significant improvement next time around.
More creativity, guile and pace is required and that will surely be the focus of Sunderland’s recruitment drive during the summer.
With eight players out of contract and a further five only on loan – and that doesn’t include the likes of Jozy Altidore, Emanuele Giaccherini and Valentin Roberge, who could well move on – it will be another supermarket sweep close season on Wearside.
The incomings are unlikely to quite match the total of 14 from last summer though and Premier League survival undoubtedly increases the chance of several of the out-of-contract or loan players remaining.
The likes of Jack Colback, Oscar Ustari, Santiago Vergini, Seb Larsson and Marcos Alonso could all feasibly stay at the Stadium of Light now.
If they do, that will be a boost to Poyet, who will avoid the daunting task of having to put in foundations from scratch.
Throw in Connor Wickham, Adam Johnson, Vito Mannone, Lee Cattermole, Wes Brown and John O’Shea, and Poyet will begin his first full season in charge with the building blocks in place.
Certainly, Wickham again demonstrated his worth yesterday by holding the ball up effectively, albeit he lacked the pace and precision of opposite number Wilfried Bony, who demonstrated why several bigger fish are targeting the Ivory Coast frontman.
Swansea will do well, very well, to keep hold of Bony this summer.
The absence of the injured Cattermole was telling too. While replacement Liam Bridcutt passed the ball nicely, he is yet to demonstrate he can set the tone in the same manner as the Teessider.
But in Mannone, O’Shea/Brown, Cattermole and Wickham, Poyet has a strong spine to the side. All good teams need that.
It’s adding those extra players, finding recruits with some natural pace and – crucially – unearthing an adequate replacement for the departing Fabio Borini, presuming Liverpool opt to keep the Italian at Anfield, which is crucial.
That won’t be a straightforward task, yet the brutal truth is that the recruitment can’t be a lot worse than last summer.
The hope is that technical director Lee Congerton, who was at the Stadium of Light yesterday, proves to be more capable than Roberto De Fanti.
But the first test of Congerton’s credentials will thankfully come in the Premier League, rather than having to perform miraculous fire-fighting in the Championship, where promotion-winning players would somehow have to be sought for peanuts.
Sunderland have none of the antagonism from supporters which would have accompanied relegation either.
The Great Escape has produced a feelgood factor around the club again and that cannot be underestimated.
Just look at the situation up the road.
If Newcastle don’t capture imaginations with their signings and begin the season poorly, then it won’t take long for the knives to be sharpened.
By contrast, Poyet has bought himself time with the results over the last few weeks. Time to let new signings gel and time for his side to be given the benefit of the doubt.
Surely, after achieving the near-impossible, Poyet will be given time – and plenty of it – from Short too.