In the Spring of 1996, Seinfeld was the biggest sitcom in the world and the main man behind it all was Larry David. As executive producer, show runner and head writer, David gave the show its voice and was the driving force in making it so iconic. So when David decided to bow out of the show, despite it continuing to run without him, many thought that was his career finished. Instead though, he went on to create another genre defining comedy in Curb Your Enthusiasm. If anything, it was the start of David's career as he was not just behind the camera but he was thrown straight into the spotlight as the main protagonist. After reinventing the traditional multi-camera sitcom, it was time for Larry to change the entire comedy genre.
Sunderland now find themselves in a similar position, albeit a more insular one. Another relegation battle has been won and it reached a glorious ending as we sent our most bitter rivals all the way to Burton Albion. It would be easy to suggest that's it for Sunderland and they'll sit back as their wads of TV money will roll in - money that would even dwarf the amounts you could make off of Seinfeld syndication. With a team looking solid, dependable and, dare I say it, exciting, it doesn't look like we'll be resting on our laurels and finding ourselves in this situation again.
The form shown by Sunderland since the turn of the year is the reason we'll be watching our team in the Premier League next season. It's not be devastating or swashbuckling but we now have a team who are hard to beat and will grind out results. Supporting a solid mid table team doesn't sound exactly glamours but it certainly beats being rooted to the foot of the table every week.
There's every reason to be optimistic when you look at the nucleus that is developing in the team. A sturdy looking defence with the absolute titans that are Younes Kaboul and Lamine Kone, at the heart of it. A midfield that is supervised by Jan Kirchhoff, a man who doesn't seem capable of giving away the ball. Goals raining down from the boots of Jermain Defoe, aided by the determination of Fabio Borini and the unpredictable flair of Wahbi Khazri. Let's not forget Yann M'Vila either, a man who surely must be top of Sam Allardyce's shopping list, and Patrick van Aanholt, a much improved attacking full back, who displayed his love for the manager when celebrating the opening goal against Everton. There's still additions to be made, undoubtedly, but it feels like Big Sam laid the foundations in the January transfer window. Another recruitment drive like that and we'll be no where near the relegation spots next season.
Those players will be guided by a man they already trust and treasure - Big Sam Allardyce. When he rode into Wearside, his reputation was on the line as he took on the biggest task of a long managerial career. Inheriting an absolute basket case of a club, low on morale, whose former manager had told them all they weren't good enough. Allardyce defied all that though and laughed along the way as he revitalised the belief in the club. Just as disconnect was developing between the players and supporters, Allardyce made sure his lads spent time with the supporters so they could realise just how important Premier League survival was to the whole community. It didn't just bring better performances but it meant we could watch eleven men who played for the shirt and worked themselves into the ground.
You look at any celebration of our recent goals, the way the players instinctively embrace one another. The way they can't wait to join in with the supporters. Jermain Defoe doesn't seem to be able to even talk about Sunderland without getting emotional and after the job was done against Everton, we witnessed the same from Younes Kaboul. They don't just have the ability - they have the character required. A team of leaders who refused to accept their situation, who knew they were better than what the league table suggested. There are genuinely not many teams like that in this division.
Now that it's complete, let's enjoy our last game of the season. A game free of pressure where the lads can just enjoy their football. They can express themselves in an unscripted manner and not be fearful of improvisation - in an environment akin to the one Larry David created on his post-Seinfeld project. There will be work to do be done in the summer but there's no need for us fans to curb our enthusiasm, as this has the makings of something to be proud of.