Rowell Report: I’m genuinely optimistic for the future at Sunderland

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.

I certainly don’t want to dampen anyone’s mood after the escape from relegation, but it’s obvious the club have to deliver more than annual survival battles.

Leicester have opened the door and shown what’s possible and that it’s not just an elite few clubs who will dominate. There’s no reason why Sunderland can’t get in on the act.

The season’s been long, gruelling and at times distinctly underwhelming, but we finished with a flourish and somehow ended up celebrating.

The players rose to the occasion again in the two games that mattered most, with a home derby win and draw at St James’s, and just like in previous seasons, the points taken from Newcastle have been massive in keeping us up.

The win over Chelsea was the best game I saw, it had everything, including my favourite goal from Wahbi Khazri and it was 90 minutes that will live long in the memory.

New signings Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri and Jan Kirchhoff will all be better next season, with a summer’s rest and a good pre-season behind them, as will Yann M’Vila if he returns.

The funniest moment of the season had to be at Norwich when after just five minutes, a fracas erupted around Sam Allardyce.

Instead of stepping back and letting others get on with it, the big fella stood his ground and was willing to go toe-to-toe with players half his age.

It was at that moment that I knew we’d win that crucial game.

I’ve probably said this after the last few seasons, but I’m genuinely optimistic for the future now.

We stayed up because for the first time in years, we had a good transfer window and if Allardyce has another positive one this summer – to add to what I think is a promising team – we should be nearer the top than the bottom and nowhere near a relegation scrap.