Sunderland’s Premier League stay was a story littered with ‘what if’ moments, and watching Burnley secure seventh in the Premier League table was a reminder of one.
Sean Dyche had been a strong candidate for the managerial position before Dick Advocaat decided to return in the summer of 2015, a decision that was quickly shown to be a misstep.
Whether Dyche would ultimately have taken the role is up for debate, and there are no guarantees that he would have been able to succeed. By this stage, Sunderland’s cycle of underachievement had long since set in.
Burnley, though, have been one of the few clubs to successfully capitalise on the obscene riches of the top tier.
Crucially, when first promoted under Dyche in 2014, they lived within their means and did not become obsessed with keeping the Premier League’s revenue streams at all costs.
They did not stray from their long-term vision for the club and here they are a couple of years down the line, probably in better financial and footballing health than at any time in their history.
Outside of the top six, they are one of very few Premier League clubs to maintain an identity rooted in their community on and off the pitch.
As Stewart Donald prepares to take over at Sunderland, it is a story he can learn much from if he is to oversee a journey back from the brink.
The relegation of West Brom, Swansea City and Stoke City, however, does show that the Premier League disease does not affect Sunderland alone.
So many of the errors that pushed the Black Cats to the brink were self-inflicted but their failure has been an underpinned by a basic truth that has been borne out again in the current campaign.
The financial excess of the Premier League, and the perceived consequences of not being at the table, are eroding clubs’ identities and creating a chronic cycle of short-term decision making.
Both Swansea City and Stoke City were promoted playing to distinctive styles of football, recruiting players and managers to suit.
Radically different in style they may have been but the common denominator was that they found a way to close the gap to those with a significant financial advantage.
Stoke, in fairness, did enjoy some success when they moved away from Tony Pulis but by this season they resembled what Sunderland became under David Moyes.
Some outstanding individual talent, certainly, but too many middling players earning money way out of proportion with their ability.
Crucially, their playing style had been eroded to such an extent that there was no discernible pattern of play.
That Swansea City ended at the same destination is perhaps even sadder.
They arrived in the top tier as one of the most unique teams ever to win promotion, but have ended their time stuck in the same cycle of churn; managers and players passing through at speed with seemingly little thought of the bigger picture.
All three teams have been outthought and outfought by those promoted last season.
The challenge for those sides will be to avoid making the same mistakes when the novelty wears off and the TV income continues to grow.
Sunderland are an extreme example of what can happen when a club forgets that there is more to football than the Premier League.
Swansea, Stoke and West Brom are just the latest and there are sure to be more.