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Roker Report’s End-of-Season Sunderland Grades: Forwards - What were the marks for our marksmen?

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For the final segment of the Roker Report gradings, we assess each and every forward to have represented Sunderland AFC this season. How do the likes of Vaughan and Grabban compare to Maja and Asoro?

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,

Joel Asoro: A-

In a season which will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, this pacey young lad will be remembered for all the right ones. He played without fear despite his youth and our tumultuous situation. Being 18 for most of the season, the Sweden Under-21 forward did what most of us could only dream of at that age, entertaining the passionate red and white faithful on a weekly basis.

But for a couple of niggling injuries his season could have been very different. Asoro managed to grab three goals and two assists in what has been very much his breakthrough campaign, and while the figures don’t look incredible, he has offered a lot more with his direct style of play.

The precise finish to defeat Hull in January was a particular highlight, as he proved just what an asset he could be at that level, never mind in League One. Fingers crossed we keep hold of him.

Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,

Ashley Fletcher: D

D is for Derby County, whom Fletcher decided to channel his inner Messi against and produce a goal only the best could dream of. But let’s be totally honest, what a useless lump he was.

The striker, on-loan from ‘rivals’ Boro, has been completely devoid of confidence for a prolonged spell of his career and doesn’t seem to be able to get out of the hole he’s in. He clearly has some sort of talent, we just didn’t see enough of it - although his form did improve slightly towards the end of the season, as he even won a few headers!

All jokes aside though, I feel like Fletcher could have been a very capable Championship striker had we not been so bloody useless. Still would’ve rather given Maja his chances though.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

Lewis Grabban: A

Lewis Grabban certainly divided opinion more than most other prolific strikers in the league. Our top scorer for the season, he managed 12 goals in red and white, and 8 in the claret and blue of Steve Bruce’s Aston Villa, finishing only one behind Matej Vydra in the overall standings.

Grabban is a natural finisher - a poacher - and a more than competent Championship striker, but it felt for long periods that we needed a more industrious type forward to help the team out. Looking back though, maybe Grabban was exactly the striker we needed and it was those around him who were letting us down.

P.S. I hope Villa lose in the Play-Offs x

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Kazenga LuaLua: F

The former mag is just one of many signings that haven’t worked out. The lad is made of paper for sure. Chris Coleman bigged up Kazenga when he first signed, claiming his attitude was what we needed at the time.

He may well have had the attitude but he didn’t produce anything on the pitch due to his constant lack of fitness or recurring injuries. You have to give Coleman the benefit of the doubt with this one though, as there was little risk involved in signing the player for free.

His best moment at Sunderland was probably getting injured in the warm up of the Wolves game, affording academy product Luke Molyneux a start.

Ipswich Town v Brighton & Hove Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Josh Maja: C+

Jermain Defoe praised the young striker’s football brain during last season, with this being clearly evident as he formed a decent partnership with Joel Asoro in their limited time on the pitch together.

The roar of the crowd as the two youngsters came off the bench in the home win against Fulham was very much overshadowed by the performance of Maja, executing a brilliant turn and finish to the elation of the red and white faithful. This is, however, Maja’s only professional goal of his career to date - but the signs are there that he could become very important for us.

Overall a promising season but not much else for the young lad.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images

James Vaughan: E-

Where to start with the bloke who infamously cupped his ear to the Sunderland fans after scoring against Burton...

Let’s begin with the reason we signed him. James Vaughan scored a total of 24 league goals in the 2016/17 season for League One Bury, and we desperately needed a goalscorer after inevitably losing Jermain Defoe on a free to Bournemouth.

Vaughan couldn’t quite bring his purple patch from North West to North East as he scored a measly 2 goals prior to a move to the eventual League One winners Wigan. Yes, that’s right, the man who very much etched his name into our history books for being one of the worst strikers we’ve ever had will be plying his trade in the league above the club he offered little to. As will one Danny Graham, but we’ll leave that one there.

The signs were there for all to see in pre-season as Vaughan seemed to only miss penalties or attempt overhead kicks. Good riddance, fella!

Sunderland v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Duncan Watmore: D

We didn’t see much of the ‘Roadrunner’ this season after his unfortunate injury, prompting a get well soon letter from none other than Real Madrid.

The dangerous winger looked like he could excel in the Premier League never mind the Championship, so when his season ended just as Coleman walked through the door, we had certainly lost an asset.

Even though he wasn’t available often, his willingness to run shone through a depleted team. His quality is evident and if we can get him fit (and keep him that way), then he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in League One.

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images