Sam Allardyce has been hailed Sunderland’s saviour with eight out of 10 supporters crediting him with the club’s Premier League survival.
The vastly experienced 61-year-old arrived on Wearside last October, replacing Dick Advocaat in the hotseat after the club had failed to win any of their opening eight league games.
Sunderland were deep in relegation trouble but he steered the club to safety with a game to spare, ensuring the Stadium of Light will host top flight football for a tenth-straight season.
And fans have been quick to thank him in our end of season Big Sunderland AFC Survey – the first instalment of which we can reveal today.
When asked who should take the most credit for getting the club out of trouble, Allardyce topped the vote with 82.2 per cent.
His impressive January signings – Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff – secured 13.9 per cent of votes with all three making a key contribution in the second-half of the campaign.
Following his departure, Advocaat famously said that he didn’t believe the Sunderland squad was good enough to get out of trouble.
Three quarters of fans in our survey agreed with that statement, hence why Allardyce had to carry out major surgery in January.
But an overwhelming 97.7 per cent of supporters thought Sunderland WOULD have gone down if Advocaat had remained at the helm.
Allardyce’s man management skills came out on top when we asked fans what his single best quality was, with his dealings in the transfer market polling 18.5 per cent of votes after a successful January window.
Big Sam’s tactics and character were next in line with his style of play picking up the least votes, despite some free-flowing attacking football in the final weeks with impressive victories over Norwich City, Chelsea and Everton sealing safety.
Owner Ellis Short was the man responsible for bringing Allardyce to the club last October and we asked readers what they thought of his performance this season.
Just shy of 50 per cent of supporters were content with the efforts of Short off the pitch but admit they would like to see more action from the man at the helm.
A successful summer on the transfer front would help on that front, with Allardyce set to oversee a major overhaul with several players leaving and more heading in to bolster the squad.
Short’s decision to dispense with the sporting director model at the Stadium of Light has been met with widespread praise though.
Lee Congerton’s time at Sunderland effectively ended in December – two months after he decided to leave the Stadium of Light.
Congerton handed in his notice at the same time as Advocaat’s resignation after the sporting director had grown frustrated with the limitations of his role at the club.
He continued to hold down that position in the early stages of Allardyce’s tenure but was placed on gardening leave in December.
Nine out of 10 supporters agreed scrapping the role was the right decision for Sunderland moving forward, with Allardyce effectively leading the way in player recruitment.
We also asked fans to rate the club’s season; a campaign marred by off-the-field problems including the sacking and conviction of Adam Johnson and the resignation of former chief executive Margaret Byrne.
A majority of fans described the 2015-16 season as poor, with a quarter of fans labelling it as average.
A small number thought it was good after another successful battle against the drop, with just under 10 per cent labelling it awful and one to forget.
Our coverage continues tomorrow with a look at who the club should offload and how much needs to be spent.