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2020 in Review: Frustrating for Sunderland, but December’s ownership news gives us hope for 2021

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2020 - what a year... though, largely for all the wrong reasons, it’s one I’m sure we are all, Sunderland fans included, keen to put behind us.

Paris Saint-Germain v Olympique de Marseille - Ligue 1 Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

2020 will be one of the worst years that people will ever live through.

The coronavirus pandemic pulled families apart, but yet closer than they ever have been. From two metre social distancing to appreciating society’s key workers, the whole of the UK came together to defeat the horrific virus.

It was a time when the usual normalities ended, and we became more focused on the health of ourselves and our society.

It was March when the disease first took control in the UK - sport came to a standstill, whilst everyone was shut under a national lockdown.

Week by week went by without Sunderland games to watch, but that wasn’t the most important thing to worry about as deaths accelerated and more restrictions were imposed on us.

For Sunderland, it was a year of frustration, as the COVID-19 health emergency caused the takeover of the club to stutter and the football on the pitch to end.

The beginning of 2020 seems like an eternity ago, with fans being inside the Stadium of Light seeming like a reality that seems months away.

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sunderland’s impressive run in January and February - losing once in 15 League One matches - was over-shadowed by the final four matches before League One was halted.

Fans were filled with ‘what if’s’ as they were left to wonder what would have happened if they had beaten Fleetwood, or not conceded that late equaliser against Gillingham in the final home match.

At the time, the EFL’s decision on what would happen with League One seemed to drag on and on, until they were left with no other option but to cancel the league and determine the positions on a points-per-game basis, which saw the Black Cats finish in their worst ever league position.

That decision resulted in Sunderland spending their third successive season in England’s third tier, but so far, things haven’t flown as easy as people may have expected.

In the early weeks of the season, it seemed like Parkinson’s side were lacking the experience of League One football having been away from the game for so long, but were still able to pick up results at the likes of Peterborough, Oxford and a draw at Charlton.

Then, the turning point in Parkinson’s reign came when the Black Cats fell to a 2-1 defeat to MK Dons at the Stadium of Light, with fans beginning to feel uneasy with Parkinson as manager, as his game plan was out-matched by his MK Dons counterpart, Russell Martin.

The next few weeks saw misery being piled on misery, as draws to Doncaster and Fleetwood saw Parkinson lose his job and the Black Cats looking for a new manager.

A week after Parkinson was shown the door, it felt like a new dawn was on the horizon at the Stadium of Light.

Fleetwood Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

The appointment of Kristjaan Speakman and Lee Johnson, as new sporting director and head coach respectively, expressed a plan that the club were beginning to form, with only one direction in their sights - forward.

During the summer months, the takeover of the club seemed to be by-passed, with the COVID-19 pandemic springing up different hurdles for Stewart Donald to deal with.

Hope arose when the period of exclusivity was announced late in July, but time progressed and fans became less optimistic that a deal could be struck.

Different bidders through their hat into the ring (some more genuine than others), but now, Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ name has been picked out and is destined to be the next owner of Sunderland.

His first job is looking to be dealing with the damages that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to cause Sunderland, with some players still dealing with the long-term effects of the disease.

With the possibility of a two-week circuit break in football in the new year, it seems like nobody is out of the woods just yet, with a new variant of the virus seeming more deadly than before.

Sometime in 2021, the old normalities will return, and how exciting it will be.

Whether it’s returning to the Stadium of Light to watch Sunderland play, or meeting up with friends before a match, football will return to how it once was, and hopefully it’s a new era at Sunderland AFC that people on Wearside will be celebrating.