Well, thank god that's all over eh? A season that started so well and promised so much really has become a grind as it has worn on, and I doubt that I'm the only one that would like to just forget the last few months and concentrate on looking forward to next season.
Personally, it's been quality to be involved in Roker Report. I moved to France in November, and didn't realise just how much I'd miss football. So to be invited to write for such a good site was great.
I might only knock together a stupid poem every week, but it's a bit of fun if nothing else. I'm not expecting kids to be studying them in 30 years time. Elsewhere, it's been an honour to interview some huge names in sport, journalism and Sunderland FC, all thanks to the website.
As well as that, I get to engage in some first class chat every couple of weeks thanks to the podcast. Simon doesn't get enough credit for how hard he worked to establish the website, but the podcast is arguably even more impressive. As he records, edits and does all the other stuff involved himself, it's amazing that we have been so well recieved. And to make the top 10 of iTunes is no mean feat.
But that's enough of me boring you, let's crack on with the reason that you're here, yes?
Player Of The Season?
Dan: Without fear of repeating those that have gone before me, I'm going to plump for Phil Bardsley. At the start of the season, it looked like out kilt-wearing Manc would be on his way out of the door, however he has knuckled down and showed Brucey what he can do. You can't knock that. He may be limited at times when playing left back, but his heart and commitment is second to none, as proved in the derby games, when he was the only one that looked at all bothered. I think it was telling that he was the one claiming that some of the squad needed to 'stand up and be counted' recently, and when you add in goals this season, including an absolute peach against West Brom, he has to be the number one choice in this particular category.
Young Player Of The Season?
Dan: With honorable mention to Simon Mignolet, my vote has to go to Jordan Henderson. To be honest, he almost toppled McBardo to the main gong, so it would be wrong to deny him this one. It's easy to forget that Jordan is only still a young man. His form, pre Christmas, was magnificent, and led to a whole host of teams enquiring about his services. Ok, so he's struggled since Christmas, but in his defence, he looked knackered. Just look at how well he played against Wigan after having a rest. Add to that an international debut, and I think 'our Jordan' is a more than deserving winner.
Best Signing Of The Season?
Dan: As with question two, I think Simon Mignolet deserves an honourable mention here, however, my vote goes to Titus Bramble. I openly admit to being one of those that were slightly dubious when I heard the news, but as soon as the price tag became public knowledge, we were always going to be on to a winner. The big man at the back was fantastic before injury did the same to him as it did to many of the team, and I hope that we can build our defence around him next season. Apart from the derby, I can't remember him having a really bad game.
Worst Player Of The Season?
Dan: Marcos Angeleri. So bad that we featured a song about him. Sung in a voice that matches his talent (sorry Simon).
Most Disappointing Signing Of The Season?
Dan: This is a tough one. Is it our Argentinian international full back, our Champions League winning midfielder or the man who starred for Paraguay at the World Cup? Yeah, no, it's not that tough, it's Riveros. I watched with glee as he had a brilliant WC, but has been nothing like that player in our stripes, rather than those of his national team. I really thought we were onto a winner there, but wouldn't be surprised to see him on his way very soon.
Goal Of The Season?
Dan: Nedum away at Chelsea. I know that there were a couple of spectacular strikes flying around this season, but for a defender to jink past the Chelsea defence in the way that he did was almost unreal, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. If Torres had done that at the other end (and yes, I do know that he wasn't playing), it would have been talked about for months. Just brilliant.
Game Of The Season?
Dan: Can it be anything other than the Chelsea game? No, no it can't. A magnificent performance by every single man that went out on that field meant that we left the capital with three points and one of the most comprehensive and impressive victories that I've ever seen. The scoreline didn't lie at all, and if anything, we could have had a couple more.
Out of ten, what would you rate Steve Bruce's performance as manager this season?
Dan: Tough question. Anyone has to feel a little sorry for the guy with all of the injuries that he has had to put up with, as well as Wor Darren's departure, but at the same time, we have looked clueless on occasion and as if we have no idea tactically. I'll plump for a five I think, and a definite 'must do better' in the comments column. Whether he will get the chance to do better or not, we'll have to wait and see...
Which one moment summed up SAFC's entire season?
Dan: The collective groan that went up around the ground when Gyan got injured against Wigan. Unbeknown to us, it was a blessing in disguise (in the course of that game anyway), but it seemed like our season in a nutshell. Down to one frontman left thanks to our injury list, the guy that we were pinning our hopes on goes down clutching a muscle that will keep him out for almost all of the rest of the season.
Of the loanees this season, which if any would you like to see stay permanently?
Dan: Urm.. As much as I love John Mensah - and I actually wrote a pre-season preview for my own site at the time which said he could be one of the best defenders in the league, which seemed fair enough after the World Cup that he had - I think I'd like to see Nedum stay the most. I would go for Elmo, but that deal seems done. Nedum is flexible, young, pacy, and if he can add a little to his getting forward, I think he can be an excellent player for years to come. I wouldn't mind moving him to centre back with Bramble though, and bringing someone else in, such as Hutton, to get forward more, leaving Nedum to concentrate on his defending.
Which player should be first out the door in the summer?
Dan: Does this include the ones that are obvious? George McCartney, Matt Kilgallon, Noz... None really have a future at the club if we are being honest, but I'll go for Michael Turner. This might be a controversial choice, as on his day, he can be a great defender. But I think we need to build our defence around someone more composed, that doesn't just hoof the ball as far as he can, and has a little more pace. I've avoided the obvious choices here though, and gone for someone that we might actually get a bit of money for.
Give us one player you think SAFC simply must buy this summer (within reason)...
Dan: If I could choose anyone that was theoretically in our reaches, I'd go for Kevin Davies. He might be getting on a bit, but I think he would be an excellent companion for Asamoah Gyan... As I don't think he'll leave Bolton, ever, I'll go for Kevin Doyle. It might be a little more difficult to prise him away from Wolves now that they have survived, but he's strong in the air for his size, good on the floor, and could also be a good partner for Baby Jet.
What was your personal highlight of the season, something we might not know about?
Dan: Another tough one, as my living arrangements haven't given me much of a chance to be 'involved' in the club in person. However, I think the opening game of the season contained my favourite moment. I was truly happy to be able to get to the game, as I hadn't been for a while, and when Darren Bent, who was by far my favourite player at the club at the time, put us in front, it just felt like things might finally be going right for a change. But, that's optimism for you.
Aside from an actual moment on the park, I was thrilled to hear the first podcast that I was involved in. Having always wanted to do something like that, it was a real buzz to hear what we had put together, and be a part of it. I'm not ashamed to say that I didn't get much sleep the night before it was released, and kept waking up, checking my watch like a kid on Christmas Eve. Does that make me sad? Probably, but I've no issues with that being the case.
Get following Dan on Twitter too - @daninfrance - for regular musings on SAFC and indeed music sometimes.