I've had the relatively easy task of compiling a "best of" list of awards. I say easy because, with so few moments of excitement this season, we were generally on the same page when it came to deciding the winners. First up, an obvious one...
Best Match: Mags 0-3 Heroes
There really was only going to be one winner for this one wasn't there? 14th April 2013, finally something for us Sunderland fans to shout about as far the derby goes. We rarely beat Newcastle United, never mind comprehensively. Three glorious goals put the Mags to the sword on their own patch on a day I, nor anyone else of a red and white persuasion will forget in a hurry. From a personal point of view, it was my first away derby where I was actually at the match. For once I didn't bring a storm of bad luck with me. See you there next season then...
Nick Holden: There's absolutely no choice to be made here. Sessegnon, Johnson, Vaughan. Di Canio's celebrations. A Mag punching a horse.
Dave Boyle: Honourable mention too has to go to Alan Pardew's celebration following Cisse's equaliser, with the Newcastle supremo keen to revel in delight in front of the Sunderland technical area only to find his chips well and truly pissed upon as the linesman's flag was raised.
Luke Bowley: When David Vaughan was created by Dr. Frankenstein, he was clearly given the left foot of Roberto Carlos.
Best Signing: Steven Fletcher
An almost unanimous vote in favour of our £12m striker, with only Simon Walsh coming out of the left field with his choice of Alfred N'Diaye, "The reason he gets it over Fletcher for me is Fletcher has given us what I expected. N'Diaye has given more than I expected".
Danny Rose received a number of honourable mentions as a second place candidate but I have to agree with Chris Weatherspoon here, "Steven Fletcher. Easily. I was one of the gang who felt £12m was good value (yes, I'm gloating) and so it has proven. A brilliant marksman in a terrible side". A number of shouts too, and rightly so, for the range of his finishing and the value of his goals.
Best Player: Simon Mignolet
Poor Danny Rose. In fact, I was surprised at how little he was brought up in other Roker Report writers' season assessment for this award. David Boyle had it down as a toss up between our Belgian keeper - and lets face it, he has been our best player - and Rose, but nobody else even mentioned our (I wish he still was) excellent left back. Anyway, enough of lamenting the loss of our once on loan full back and onto praising the winner.
I couldn't agree more with Karl Jones in this instance, "Quite frankly, we would have been relegated comfortably had Mignolet been injured for a prolonged period this season". Both Dave and Simon struck a similar chord, remarking on how Mig's saves have been as important to us as Fletcher's goals. Hard to disagree. Here's hoping we can keep a hold of him.
Best Goal: David Vaughan Vs Newcastle United
I got the deciding vote on this category with a number of votes for Fletcher's back heeled effort against Reading, Danny Rose capping off a wonderful team move with a cool finish against Villa - over to Luke Bowley, "The build up between Rose and Graham was terrific, the left back's movement throughout was superb, and the finish was sublime" - and a mention for Adam Johnson's effort against the Mags from Dave, Chris and Stephen Goldsmith. Chris reckons, "What that goal brought with it [Johnson's] - joy, relief, acceptance that this really was our day - was unbeatable" but I disagree and as I'm putting this together, my choice wins.
I'm with Andy Tomlinson and Karl for this one When Vaughan's hit the net, there was no feeling like it, watching their lot streaming out as we celebrated wildly. It was also a special strike, perfectly placed with power and precision beyond the stranded Mag keeper.
Best Save: Simon Mignolet Vs West Ham United
Over to Dave, who agreed with Luke and Chris, writing, "Mignolet's acrobatic, reflex save to deny Kevin Nolan at The Boleyn Ground back in September. A permanent thorn in Sunderland's side, Nolan got on the end of a cross from the right flank and met the ball with a scissor kick following his deep run from midfield and his well struck effort looked destined to find the back of the net. That was until Mignolet miraculously threw himself to his left and at full stretch was able to push the ball wide."
Most Improved Player: Jack Colback
As Stephen put it, the ‘John Oster used to be shite but now he's alright award'. You could argue that at one time or another that has been said of Simon Mignolet and Alfred N'Diaye - a couple of favourites - while Simon's choice - Danny Rose - was maligned by some supporters before kicking a ball for us.
Mignolet has had plenty of praise heaped on him - deservedly so - and was already a very good goalkeeper who has developed into an excellent one, while N'Diaye has improved rapidly since moving to Wearside.
It is Colback though, who has slotted into several positions since Di Canio's arrival, who has improved the most. He has even managed to play the right back role with ease. I am going to go with Michael Graham's words here, "Colback's form in the last few games in a variety of positions has been testament to his improvement. He has clearly embraced Di Canio's training methods and they seem to have done him the world of good."
Best Atmosphere: Everton (H)
Coming off the back of a derby win like no other - yes I am going to mention it as often as possible - the atmosphere for the game against Everton was always going to be electric. The fact that we took the lead and held on for what turned out to be an absolutely crucial win added to the palpable buzz around the ground. As Michael puts it, "The Baines free kick when every block was cheered louder than the last was just incredible." What a moment. What a match. Dave rightly invokes the spirit of times gone by, "home fans created a cauldron of atmosphere and emotion the likes of which have not been witnessed since maybe the fledgling days at the Stadium under Peter Reid". And as I'm a sucker for a pun, I'll end with Nick's words, "Sunderland's Everton curse proving to be much hoodoo about nothing."
Most Important Single Moment: Change Of Manager
Chris' turn to throw one out of the left field this time, plumping for O'Neill's last hurrah over the festive period, "had O'Neill not managed to summon up some positivity for that festive spell, salvation wouldn't have even been an option."
The vast majority of us have gone for either Di Canio's arrival, O'Neill's sacking or a mixture of the two. As Karl aptly puts it, "We were skidding towards relegation at the end of March, until Short ripped up the handbrake and acted." I felt much the same as Nick about the idea of sacking O'Neill, well up until the Norwich game anyway. He "Would never have thought it at the time (when [he] was predicting apocalyptic disaster)" but the single most important moment was the firing of O'Neill.
Whether Di Canio works out long term, remains to be seen, but I will be forever grateful for those two wins and Premier League survival.
Signs Of Hope For The Future: Di Canio
Not my personal choice, as doubts I had upon his appointment are starting to creep back in now that he has completed his remit of safety.
Andy pointed out that 7 academy products were part of the 18-man squad that turned up to White Hart Lane on Sunday. That is both a positive and a negative in my opinion - the lack of depth is terrifying going into this summer.
Stephen nods toward the fact we're heading down the director of football route and in the long term, that is certainly a huge positive. We simply cannot have a new manager/new players policy every time we sack someone.
On to Di Canio, Karl is excited by his tactical acumen, "The Italian has managed to organise a midfield that aimlessly wandered through the first half of the season and get them to protect, and frustrate opposing teams. It will be interesting to see what he can achieve with a few more attacking options."
Michael is right point out that there is a core of quality in the squad too, while also adding "The problem is the rotten core that conspires to undo all their good work. If we can eject that and rebuild it stronger, then suddenly Mignolet's saves and Fletcher's goals stop turning defeats into draws and start turning draws into wins."
There is something to build on here and hopefully Di Canio is the man to rebuild the squad, bring through youth and put together something tactically, which to be quite honest has been missing for many a year on Wearside.