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The Alternative SAFC Highlights Of 2016

Forget best goals, great performances and top days out - here are the real highlights of Sunderland’s year.

Emmanuel Eboue of Sunderland
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Signing Emmanuel Eboue Just To Provide “Banter”

In March 2016, there was something of cloud hanging over The Stadium of Light. It wasn’t just the usual relegation fears either. A high profile court case that led to boardroom level sackings had morale at a rather low ebb. Sam Allardyce needed to do everything he could to give the place a lift. Step forward, Emmanuel Eboue.

The former Arsenal right back wasn’t necessarily brought in for defensive cover and that’s not just because bringing in Eboue to shore up your defence is a totally hilarious notion. No, he was brought in to purely lift the dressing room. Crack some jokes on the training ground. He was a one man team building exercise.

Those interviews new signings do for the clubs official website are usually quite bland affairs, but not for Eboue. I say that, I’m not sure if I actually watched it. What I did see though, was a still of him, mid interview, in a pair of red and white flip flops. Almost immediately, Eboue had fulfilled his purpose.

The fact that Eboue’s contract was terminated before he could even make a first team appearance just added to it all. FIFA slapped him with a year long ban due to unpaid agent fees, because of course that’s what would happen to Emmanuel Eboue. He rode off into the sunset with his work done though and was every bit as vital in keeping Sunderland up as Jermain Defoe’s goals.

On a serious note, Eboue recently spoke about how he contemplated suicide when he received his ban and we hope to see his beaming smile back on the field as soon as possible.


When Jordan Pickford Was Propa' Buzzin’

Sunderland is a football club that makes sure it recognises the history and culture of the city. A ship adorned the clubs old crest, the Stadium of Light is named so due to being built on an old coal mine and a giant Davy Lamp sits outside to hammer home that fact. The SoL sits on the Wear, where the ships once sailed past whilst the coal was being mined. Roker Park - where much of our history was forged - may now be a thing of the past but SAFC has made sure their new home isn't without identity.

So it's comforting to see our goalkeeper reminding us of another part of Sunderland's rich culture - The New Monkey. Pickford loves to listen to it "on the way to graft" and after a great performances he always let's us know that it's time to "Get The Rave On!"

It's about time someone pushed New Monkey into the mainstream and it now means that every save Pickford makes will be greeted by fans also proclaiming that it is indeed time to "Get The Rave On." Those chants were never louder than when The Lads finally claimed their first clean sheet of the season against Hull. In his post match press conference, the only words that Pickford seemed to be able to muster were "propa", "buzzin'", "legend" and, obviously, "get the rave on."

Fans of all clubs will always refer to a local player as "one of their own" just for being born within a 15 mile radius of the town. With Jordan Pickford though, it's totally apt. You can imagine him gannin' radge in the South Stand if he wasn't a pro footballer. Just last week a supporter shared a picture of the crowd of Massive Lads Fans waiting for the Metro to travel to St James Park. You remember the game, the one where we won it in the last minute and ruined their Christmas. Who was in that crowd though? That's right, the boy Pickford.

There's no point in him going to Manchester United, City, Arsenal or whoever might be after him. Can you imagine him trying to explain Tazo & Ace to Petr Cech? The nouveau riche at The Emirates Stadium just won't get it.


Yann M'Vila's Unsolicited Airport Appearance

Even though he didn't sign for Sunderland permanently and never will, this still made deadline day. A serious of Instagram videos lit up #SunderlandTwitter as we all dreamed that Yann was about to finally come home. I mean, why else would he fly into the UK if he wasn't signing? That would just be crazy!

Turns out, he was crazy. While M'Vila was flying out of continental Europe, Martin Bain was going in the opposite direction as he went to finalise the deal for Didier "Sorry I'm Not M'Vila" Ndong. The Sunderland CEO wasn't even aware of M'Vila's plans to fly to Heathrow and it turned out that Yann and his agent just flew into the country in the hope the SAFC heirachy would go "Well, since you've made the effort we might as well give Ruben Kazan a load of money we don't actually have."

We had fun though as #CansForYann ended up trending on Twitter but we were forced to drown our sorrows with M'Vila's final Insta post of the day. A black screen with a heartbreaking message, resembling the scene when you get killed on a video game, was posted by the axe wielding midfielder. It read...

And that was that. We screamed "ANNOUNCE M'VILA" all summer only for both fans and the player to be strung along and stood up.


David Moyes' Right Back Fetish

Picture the scene as Sunderland manager David Moyes talks transfers with his backroom team, Paul Bracewell and Robbie Stockdale.

BRACEWELL: "David, our only senior right back is injured. We should probably bring one in."

MOYES: "Good idea, I'll sign a young promising lad who still looks like he gets his Mam to pick out his blackheads."

BRACEWELL: "Doesn’t look like Donny Love is ready to be relied upon every week, gaffer. Hopefully Jonesy will be fit again soon."

MOYES: "Bollocks to that, let's sign another one!"

STOCKDALE: "I'm not sure that's a good idea given our limited..."

MOYES: "Brace. Rob. Meet Javier Manquillo."

BRACEWELL: "But what will we do once all three players are fit?"

MOYES: "Oh, just you wait and see!"

A few weeks pass by. Billy Jones has returned from injury and is back in the squad but Javier Manquillo continues as first choice right back. Donald Love is missing out on first team action because he's busy with his paper round. David isn't sure how to keep the other two right backs happy though. Meanwhile, Sunderland are taking on West Ham United at The London Stadium, the game is level and The Black Cats are on top.

BRACEWELL: "We seem to be doing alright here but Khazri is looking a bit knackered. Maybe swap him for Anichebe and we can hold the ball up in their half if we want to settle for a point?"

MOYES: "We could do that. Or, just hear me out, we could do double right backs?"

BRACEWELL & STOCKDALE: Eh?

Moyes: "I know, genius isn't it? Slaven Bilic won't know what to do!"

Sunderland lose the game 1-0 thanks to a stoppage time goal from the home side. Back on Wearside, the coaching staff decide to hold a meeting on how they can stop the rot and guide SAFC back to winning ways.

STOCKDALE: "We're looking light in midfield, boss. Maybe we should start letting some of the lads from the Under 23's train with the first team since we might need to thrust them into the Premier League spotlight."

MOYES: "Remember Phil Neville?"

* Bracewell and Stockdale look at each other with bemusement but they have a dreaded sense of where this conversation is going *

MOYES: "Well Nev was originally a right back when I signed him for Everton."

BRACEWELL: "Oh god.."

MOYES: "WE'RE GOING FOR RIGHT BACKS IN MIDFIELD, BOYS!"

What follows is a masterclass of right back conversation therapy. Donald Love gives commanding cameos in the middle against Bournemouth and Hull, whilst Billy Jones ignores the manager's calls in the middle of the night asking him to "Just try the midfield once, how do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it?"


Can You Tweet Something Like...

It's an obvious one but Victor Anichebe's social media faux pas has to be included.

It's not necessarily the tweet itself that makes it great, it's what happened after. Big Vic's inability to send a 140 character message by himself summed up how useless the team had been during the start of the season and it was only natural that Cheebs suffered some stick for it. Countering the haters, Anichebe went on a blocking binge, blocking anyone who took the mick. The shunned would be gutted just a few weeks later though.

On his first start, Anichebe put in one of the best centre forward displays by a Sunderland player in the Premier League era. When he fired in the equaliser against Bournemouth, SAFC's social media team knew there was only one way to announce the news to the wider world.

So began the Anichebe turn around. Going from joke figure, desperation signing to one of the most important players in the team. I'm glad I didn't mock him for the tweet and get blocked. I always had faith in you, Victor.


Finally, Sam Allardyce’s Hulkamania

Forget what happened after. Sam Allardyce guided us to safety at the expense of our closest rivals. With the Sky camera’s still on him, he rubbed salt into the brown ale soaked wounds by showing everyone how Big SamMania had just ran wild on Wearside, brother. The video says it all.

Then he busted out some more moves just before taking the England gig. What a man.

It's a shame that he's probably going to relegate us now.