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Fanpost: Grading Sunderland's Season

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Now that the dust has settled on the 2015/2016 season, Michael Bowers grades Sunderland's season and takes perhaps an alternative view on what were the highs and lows of the campaign.

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My Favourite & Least Favourite Game

Favourite: What you define as best is subjective to everyone - best game, performance, atmosphere etc. The Chelsea game was special in so many ways but I’m going for the goalless draw with Arsenal at the Stadium of Light.

This was the complete Sunderland performance and the only thing that was missing was a goal. Other than that, we defended outstandingly and posed a real threat at the other end. I left that game feeling very happy with what I’d seen and with cautious optimism for us staying up. Two clean sheets in a row at the time as well!

Least Favourite: Norwich at home is the obvious choice for worst game of the season so I’m going to avoid picking that. There were many other contenders though; Leicester, Bournemouth, Everton, Chelsea and Man City away to name a few.

I’m going to go with is the home game against Southampton. Although the Liverpool home game felt bad, this one felt awful. Especially after losing because of a needless penalty, it really showed the task at hand for Allardyce. It hit home to me just how much Southampton were better than us. That match left me quite depressed.

Player Of The Season

I’m one of the those people who wouldn’t give it to Lamine Kone or Jan Kirchhoff, simply because they were only here for half a season. As much they would both be worthy winners I can’t give it to them on my own principle.

For me, it’s Jermain Defoe, as his fifteen Premier League goals were crucial to keeping us up and the character he has showed during the season has been vital to our survival.

Although from a selfish point of view I’m glad he’s not going, I think he deserves to go to the Euros with England because he scored regularly for a team that finished fourth bottom, and with limited service.

Surprise Package

Patrick Van Aanholt is the obvious choice, but I’ll choose Jan Kirchhoff. I didn’t expect him to be as good as he has been after that shocking debut at Tottenham, and it's fair to say he's thrown all of us off with the way he has played the centre of midfield since arriving on Wearside in January.

I remember saying at the time don’t judge him after one bad game but he has been outstanding ever since that day on a consistent basis. I remember seeing on Twitter than Jonjo Shelvey cost £12m while Kirchhoff cost only £750,000 - it doesn’t take a genius to work out who has been better value for money.

Unsung Hero

Fabio Borini. How can you not love this man?

Throughout everything, his passion, seemingly endless energy and work-rate has been outstanding and, for me, this has cemented him in Sunderland folklore. Borini will not be a prolific goalscorer but his goals are always important i.e. against Crystal Palace, Norwich and Chelsea. I really hope we continue to find a way to use him.

Goal Of The Season

Khazri’s goals against Chelsea was stunning but I’m going with a goal from a player who I don’t even particularly rate. Steven Fletcher against Newcastle.

Younes Kaboul - yes, Younes Kaboul - ran down the left hand side of the pitch after the Magpies pushed forward and lobbed the ball over the visiting defence before Fletcher unleashed a wonderful left-footed volley into the back of the net. The build up and execution of the goal was perfect.

Performance Of The Season

Manchester United at home. Not only for how we played on the day, and we deserved to win, but because of what happened off the field. The Adam Johnson situation was one of the toughest periods ever as a Sunderland fan and I was worried the players would struggle with the attention that had been on the club throughout that week.

The first-half was just about even though we shaded it but second-half, Dame N’Doye, Khazri and Kone all had very good chances to put us ahead before we eventually retook the lead with less than ten minutes to go. To have won alone was good enough but to win and have it be completely deserved lifted Wearside again.

Atmosphere Of The Season

Chelsea at home takes this one for me, despite good competition from the following game against Everton where we secured survival.

The roar before kick-off and the noise when Defoe scored simply blew me away. The roof nearly came off the Stadium of Light. That will live in my memory for a very long time.

Final Grade: C-

Yes, we only just stayed up, but in the previous three seasons I feel like we stayed due to freak result in the last few games. This time we bought well in January and, apart from the Tottenham away game, we were always competing.

The team clicked and performances were consistently good. We didn’t scrape our way to safety or did it through the incompetence or misfortunes of someone else. We stayed up because we saved ourselves. The performances in the last eleven games give me real hope for the future. That, plus relegating Newcastle along the way, is the reason for my final grade.