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Roker Report Writers Season Review: 2015/2016 - Part One

Six writers, six questions - the Roker Report team assess the highs and lows of the 2015/2016 campaign. Kicking us off today are @GRokerReport, @RoryFallow and @Jim_Holmes_101.

Stu Forster/Getty Images

What Was Your Favourite Game This Season?

Gav: As brilliant as the Everton and Chelsea games were in the last few weeks, I absolutely loved beating Newcastle 3-0 at our place. Not only was it our sixth win against them in a row, it was a game they genuinely believe that they should have won, despite scoring three goals - this caused immense amounts of fume, making the victory feel much more sweet.

The whole day was just brilliant - we had a skinful pre-match to help get over the nerves, walloped our biggest rivals and then continued the celebrations well into the night.

Watching Younes Kaboul maraud down the line and whip a ball onto Steven Fletcher's boot was something else as well.

Rory: Even though it's been a tough season, there's quite a few contenders for game of the season. Making it six in a row against the mags, the joy of confirming survival in the 3-0 win over Everton and Norwich was a canny away day. The winner though, and I'm sure I wont be alone in selecting this, is Chelsea at home. It was a game we went into thinking we'd all be accepting relegation come the final whistle but the players refused to accept their situation. An absolute stunner from Wahbi Khazri saw us level things up at 1-1, before we shot ourselves in the foot by allowing Chelsea to regain the lead with the last kick of the first half. Under Dick Advocaat, this would have been when Sunderland surrendered but it showed just how much confidence Sam Allardyce had instilled into his players when a quick fire double put us 3-2 up with 20 minutes to go. First Fabio Borini to equalise, then Jermain Defoe to put us in front for the first time during the game. The noise that greeted Defoe's goal as well - It was unbelievable and the kind of jubilation that could almost move you to tears. And it did for Defoe!

It wasn't just about how we attacked in that game either. Jan Kirchhoff controlled the midfield and Yann M'Vila never stopped running and barely let a pass go astray. Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul were strong and a clever substitution by Big Sam saw John O'Shea come on to add some big game experience to the back line. The full backs, Patrick van Aanholt and DeAndre Yedlin, were magnificent in frustrating the Chelsea wide men and got an assist each as they excelled at both ends. Don't forget Vito Mannone either, who made a couple of crucial saves at 2-1 to keep The Lads in the game.

It wasn't just our best game this season but it was one of the best matches, and best atmospheres, the Stadium of Light has ever played host to.

Jim: Sunderland 3 - 0 Everton - safety secured! The nerves before kick off were excruciating. I wondered will we do a Sunderland, dig out a fantastic result against Chelsea but refuse to kick on against a team we should be beating. But under Sam Allardyce Sunderland look a different beast, more consistent, more composed and play with confidence.

The atmosphere was simply breathtaking for the remainder of the game - Jermain Defoe and Wahbi Khazri should have made it four and five. But it didn't matter….we’re safe…..and in turn we sent those deluded Geordies into the Championship. Happy Days.

What Was Your Least Favourite Game This Season?

Gav: The 3-1 defeat against Norwich is one of my least favourite days ever as a Sunderland supporter. It was embarrassing. We were way off the pace, our fitness levels were appalling and Dick Advocaat set his players up for a fall, and Norwich took full advantage. Nathan Redmond's goal in particular was abysmal. I walked out of the ground early, and I never do that.

Rory: Norwich at home. Do I really need to say any more?

This was when the realisation sunk in that it was going to be another season battling relegation. Dick Advocaat looked clueless and the atmosphere was awful. It felt like watching the 15 point season all over again, as newly promoted Norwich just effortlessly strolled through us.

Thank god for Sam Allardyce for turning that dreadful start around.

Jim: Sunderland 1 - 3 Norwich. Horrendous, simply horrendous. Do I have to go on?

After a opening day drubbing from the now champions Leicester, we were all hoping for a vast improvement in front of 41,000 at the Stadium of Light and we didn't get it. Jermain Defoe on one wing and Lens on the other, couple that with Billy Jones at right back is enough to give us nightmares. Let’s not even mention the anonymous Scot up front.

Sunderland were two down within 37 minutes and it could have been five had it not been for some poor finishing from the visitors. Sunderland were absolutely appalling, the Norwich midfield walked around like Barcelona. The boo’s rang out at half time as the effort and passion we’ve seen since Christmas was nowhere to be seen. Chants of ‘Are you watching Ellis Short?’ came from the South Stand, and who could blame them.

It got worse in the second half when Nathan Redmond made it three. Duncan Watmore came off the bench to grab a consolation goal. This was the game I started to realise that maybe Dick’s second spell at the club wasn’t going to be so fondly remembered.

Who Is Your Player Of The Year?

Gav: This mightn't be the most popular choice, but my player of the year has been Yann M'Vila. He runs Jermain Defoe very close and I can't argue with anyone that thinks Jermain has been our top performer this year, but Yann gets the nod for me for one big reason - in the early stages of the season, he was the only Sunderland player who played well on a consistent basis.

When we were losing every week and the players were letting down the fans on a far-too-frequent basis, Yann's quality shone through. His form certainly suffered towards the end of the season but I put that down to tiredness, and nothing more.

Rory: I'm of the opinion that you have to have been with the club since at least the close of the summer transfer window to be considered for Player of The Year. With that in mind, I'll have to discount Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff, despite their importance and how much they improved the side.

After that I think it's a straight shootout between Jermain Defoe and Yann M'Vila. Given how much he adapted his game, kept coming up with hugely important goals and never stopped working even though he was dropped from the starting line up on a few occasions - Defoe gets the nod from me. It's became cliche to say that without his goals, we'd have gone down but its a cliche because it's true. Defoe just seems to love playing for Sunderland as well and he constantly gets emotional whenever he scores. A true fan favourite and his winner against Chelsea will be a moment that's not forgotten for a long time.

Honourable mention to M'Vila though, he was a rock in our midfield before the team found its feet. He may have dipped in form towards the end but you can certainly forgive him for that, when he was constantly giving his all for the club. Against Chelsea and Everton we saw more of the early season M'Vila and signing him permanently has to be a priority this summer.

Jim: Jan Kirchhoff. It takes a lot to pip Jermain Defoe, who’s goals kept us in the league, but the big German has been outstanding. He is quite simply one of the finest midfielders I've ever seen wear red and white. Only costing us £750,000, Jan Kirchhoff has transformed our midfield. His horror debut at White Hart Lane seems an age ago and he is now the first name on the team sheet.

He makes us infinitely more solid at the back and sets up our play with relative ease. The way Jan reads the game gives our back five more time and composure under pressure. I think you’d be hard pushed to find a midfielder we’ve ever signed that plays with such ease and composure as Mr Kirchhoff.

Which Player Would You Say Has Been Our Most Disappointing This Season?

Gav: Without a shadow of a doubt it has been Jeremain Lens. I was fully convinced we had signed a superstar when he arrived last summer and, well, he's been anything but.

I don't doubt his quality, and we've seen just how good he is at differing points this season, but Jeremain's application has been sorely lacking and he strikes me as the type of negative person you just don't want around the place.

I seriously hope that his performance against Watford on the last day was a sign that he's willing to knuckle down and become a huge part of what Allardyce is building here, but I won't hold my breath.

Rory: Given the fee he commanded and the big expectations, you can't look much further than Jeremain Lens. It's frustrating because you can see that Lens has the talent but very little application, as he's not looked very interested since Dick Advocaat's departure. It's not like he's been frozen out under Allardyce, he's been given chances, but the Dutchman has failed to take any of them. Think of his anonymous performances at home to Newcastle or against Manchester City, when he was hooked at half time.

I'd be surprised to see him still plying his trade on Wearside next season but a decent performance on the final day against Watford may have given Sam Allardyce something to think about. If not, let's just hope we can cut our losses and move on.

Jim: This is a toss up between Jack Rodwell and Jeremain Lens. Those who know me know of my disdain for Mr Rodwell, but given the glimpses of quality from Lens he is all the more disappointing. The Dutchman cost us a reported eight million pounds and hasn’t even looked a player worth half that. His lack of work rate and appalling attitude has restricted him to just one start in the past three months.

After an exciting glimpse of what he can do in pre-season, we all thought we had a real talent on our hands. His goal at home against West Ham was phenomenal, but his flash of madness to get himself sent off summed up his season. It seems likely that Sam will get shot this summer and if I’m honest I don’t blame him, he’s unreliable and can be petulant. I’m sure he’ll be happy to head back to the Eredivisie to waltz around and pick up a paycheck.

What Was Your Favourite Goal Scored By A Sunderland Player This Season?

Gav: Jermain Defoe's last minute equaliser at Anfield. It wasn't a particularly spectacular finish, but it was the goal that turned our season on its head and made me - and many other people - stand up and consider that Sunderland were not going down without a fight.

If I was selecting a goal based on pure ability, it has to be Wahbi Khazri's goal against Chelsea.

Rory: Just like our game of the season, there's a few decent contenders for this too. Jeremain Lens exquisite chip at home to West Ham, Fabio Borini's tight angled last minute equaliser at home to Crystal Palace and I was quite fond of Stephen Fletchers goal against Newcastle - A well taken finish after a brilliant run and cross from Younes Kaboul.

The one that edges it for me is Wahbi Khazri's volley against Chelsea. It may have gotten a slight nick on the way through but it always looked destined for the net. Khazri showed superb technique as he dipped his shoulder and lashed the ball into the far corner. Courtois never stood a chance and it set us up for a massive win.

Jim: Jermain Defoe's strike against Chelsea. Simply clinical. It was the goal that gave us hope that we’d stay up. It send the Stadium into raptures - the noise was something we’ve not heard since the days of Peter Reid.

Who Has Been Our Most Improved Player This Season?

Gav: Yeah, there's really only one name in mind here, and it's Patrick Van Aanholt. Patrick seemed to take for granted the fact he was the only left back at the club and he wasn't listening to what his manager was telling him. Sam, being the kind of man he is, didn't care less and dropped Patrick into the U21s to teach him a lesson, and it worked. He returned to the side, scored a boat-load of goals and then towards the end of the season we started to see a very good left full back that was clearly taking on board what his manager was saying.

He's fully deserved his recall to the Dutch national side.

Rory: When you look at his nightmare start to the season and how he ended it by scoring one of the goals to keep us up - Patrick van Aanholt.

Dick Advocaat's gung-ho tactics left van Aanholt badly exposed but Sam Allardyce got his hands on him and could see his potential. By offering him further protection from the midfield and putting wide players in front of him who would work hard in tracking back, it allowed PVA to flourish. He ended the season as one of our top scorers and one of our best chance creators, something no one would have expected in September.

The Flying Dutchman hasn't just been about attacking though. In crucial games such as at home to Chelsea and Arsenal he was excellent in restricting opposition opportunities from the wide areas. If Big Sam can keep coaching him like this, that bad run of form will be long forgotten.

Jim: Patrick Van Aanholt looked simply horrendous at the start of the season - appalling positioning and midfield cover left him exposed time after time. He looked completely bereft of confidence and, in turn, the fans lost all confidence in his ability.

Enter Sam Allardyce. Patrick has looked more solid in defence but still has the ability to cause havoc when marauding forward. If the Dutch fullback continues his improvement then we could have a real player on our hands.

Answer the questions yourself in the comments below, and make sure you join us tomorrow for Part Two.

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