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Accrington Stanley v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Sunderland Season Review 2020-21: Favourite goal, best signing & young player of the season!

Now the dust has started to settle on the 2020-21 season, we look back and in part one, we discuss our favourite goal, best signing and our young player of the season.

Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Goal of the Season

Matthew Crichton says...

Chris Maguire

[Crewe 2-2 Sunderland, 27-Feb 2021]

Grant Leadbitter’s goal against Doncaster is very harshly defeated here, but for the significance of the goal at the time and the pure quality of it, I would have to award the departing Chris Maguire with this accolade.

Sunderland were absolutely shocking against Crewe and were only bailed out by two spectacular individual goals. Jordan Jones’ amazing solo run and strike was topped by an incredible half volley from Maguire.

The goal meant Sunderland remained on their unbeaten run and prevented our season from being derailed earlier than it was. If I will remember Maguire for one thing, it would definitely be for scoring unbelievable long-range goals!

Martin Wanless says...

Jack Diamond

[Lincoln City 0-4 Sunderland, 12-Dec-2020]

We had a few good goals this season – the Jones and Maguire double to rescue a point at Crewe for starters, while Leadbitter’s at Doncaster will no doubt get its plaudits for the sheer quality of the strike.

I’m going, however, for Jack Diamond’s away at Lincoln. We broke from defence quickly, with McGeady creating space to run into, carry the ball forward and play in Diamond, who curled in a beautiful finish – 3-0 up before half time. It was the type of ruthless break and devastatingly good finish that we all want to see.

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Jack Diamond doing his thing at Lincoln back in December
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

Grant Leadbitter

[Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Sunderland, 21-Nov 2020]

The goal that won Grant Leadbitter goal of the month for November last year has to be my nomination for goal of the season.

To put a drive in the top bins as Leadbitter away from home when we were still finding our way under the new coach, that is just priceless. If they had two goalies it still would have been impossible to stop.

Our former club captain is now moving on to a new phase in his life, and he has been very public about his disappointment at not helping his boyhood club to climb the leagues before he hung up his SAFC shirt for the last time, but I am sure remembering a goal like that will help ease the pain and disappointment.

Pristine technique, and totally unstoppable. Thank you for everything you have given the club and its fans, Mr Leadbitter.

Have another look...

Anthony Gair says...

Jordan Jones

[Crewe Alexandra 2-2 Sunderland 27-Feb-21]

A goal, I felt, epitomised the new Lee Johnson era, almost three months into his reign.

Having gone 2-0 down in a catastrophic first half performance at Crewe, we needed something very special to bring the lads back into it, and boy did we get it!

Jones picks the ball up on the left wing, touches it inside their right back, and absolutely wellies it with the laces, firing a shot past an absolutely helpless goalkeeper. Not only did that bring us back in the game, but this was proving to be a completely different mindset that the bereft Phil Parkinson had left behind!

Maguire bagged the equaliser (see above) with an, equally as good, finish, but I preferred this one because of its meaning.

Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Jordan Jones celebrates his goal at Crewe that Anth think was our best of the season
Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Michael Dunne says...

Ross Stewart

[Sunderland 2-1 Lincoln City, 22-May-2021]

Not for the finish exactly or for the quality of the finish, but this goal still had significant meaning. The roar from 10,000 returning fans to the Stadium of Light was a memorable and somewhat emotional moment. It warmed the heart to see fans back in our home ground and to roar on the team when they needed us most.

The noise that this goal brought was like a release of all the pent-up emotions that this harrowing pandemic has brought to us all. The goal also gave us hope for an unlikely comeback.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg
It’s the hope I can’t stand...
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Best New Signing of the Season

Matthew Crichton says...

Jordan Jones

The on-loan Rangers man was everything I wanted to see in a winger. He possessed excellent pace, brilliant one-vs-one dribbling and knew how to find the net.

He gave Sunderland some fantastic memories with his brilliant solo goal against Crewe, his volley against Hull and who could forget his superb chip against Portsmouth live on Sky?

You do wonder if Sunderland had been able to select a fit Aiden McGeady and Jordan Jones from the start of the season what we would have been able to achieve. A full season having that sort of quality could have provided Sunderland with added goals other than Charlie Wyke, you would imagine Jones would be the sort of player who could break into double figures.

The only negative parts were that he struggled with injuries and the fact it was only a loan deal, he is another who sadly I feel will be playing Championship football next season.

He certainly left a blueprint for what Sunderland require in wide areas.

Sunderland v Northampton Town - Sky Bet League One
Jordan Jones impressed Matthew enough to be his signing of the season for Sunderland
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

Dion Sanderson

Yes, McGeady got the assists and Wyke got the goals, but our good run pretty much began and ended with Dion Sanderson’s inclusion in the team.

The on-loan defender showed class, composure and maturity beyond his years – marshalling a very makeshift defence. I’d love to see him back here permanently – sign him up, make him captain, build a team around him.

It’s highly unlikely we’ll see him in red and white again, but I live in hope!

Malc Dugdale says...

Ross Stewart

Though the jury is still out a little, I would suggest that Ross Stewart could end up being one of our best signings for some time - if he continues to shine as he did later last season.

Yes, you can argue that Dion was brilliant and Jordan Jones had spells of real quality, and that getting Bailey to come back and stay was a great bit of business, but the way Stewart played away to Plymouth at the start of last month showed us how many different options someone with both height and pace can give the team.

My main regret is that we went back to Charlie Wyke when we did, if we had continued to play differently, teams working out how to mark Wyke out of the game would have been less relevant, and we may have done enough in more ways to get up.

Hopefully, we get many more athletic and sizeable options throughout the team for next time, but for £300,000, he holds a lot of promise for me.

Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Ross Stewart gave us another dimension in the final third during his few appearances towards the end of the season
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Anthony Gair says...

Dion Sanderson

A state-of-the-art defender, not afraid to pass the ball out from the back, not scared of hoofing the ball clear and, most importantly, not terrified of a challenge.

There have been many games this season where Dion Van Dijk has bossed a game from centre back; whether it be finding a pass to send us on a quick counter attack, or a crunching tackle on the edge of the area to win the ball.

90% of the games he played in, he was man of the match, or at least in the running for it. He was our talisman, and it was proven when the wheels come off completely after his injury rocked the side, flying high in League One.

Mad to think that, just one player, would probably have seen us promoted quite comfortably. I may be speaking out of turn here, but, on behalf of every Sunderland fan, I hope he returns next season, be it on loan or permanent.

Michael Dunne says...

Dion Sanderson

This was a difficult one. Not because we had so many talented signings enter our team this year but quite the opposite.

I hate to give the man credit, but kudos to our former manager Phil Parkinson for the signing of Dion Sanderson. Sanderson was a stellar performer this year. Calmness personified and showed calmness beyond his years, Sanderson was an integral reason for the position we got ourselves in at the highest point of the season.

His injury was a massive blow to the team and it was only in his absence that we truly saw how important he was. If there was any possibility of re-signing him, I would almost make it a priority.

Wigan Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
The beginning of the end
Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Young Player of the Season

Matthew Crichton says...

Dion Sanderson

Considering Phil Parkinson avoided playing him at all costs, it was a fantastic achievement that the Wolves loanee ended up being Sunderland’s best defender and his injury at the latter stages of the season was a crushing blow.

The 21-year-old managed to turn a bunch of cameo appearances across the back four into becoming Sunderland’s go-to central defender. He was incredible during Sunderland’s 12-match unbeaten run alongside Luke O’Nien.

He reminded every Sunderland fan of Jonny Evans’ loan spells under Roy Keane - a young centre-back who was exceptional on the ball and an all-around brilliant defender.

It is unlikely that Sanderson will break into the Wolves side, but unfortunately, I think it is equally unlikely that he will return to Sunderland. My money would be on another loan spell to a Championship club.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League 1
Dion Sanderson made 27 appearances for Sunderland last season, scoring one goal.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

Ross Stewart

I’ve given Dion Sanderson an accolade higher up here, so for this one I’m giving my vote to Ross Stewart. Although we only saw fleeting glimpses of him, he looks like a player who could really develop given the opportunity.

His athleticism, pace, movement and finishing prowess really give us a different dimension up front and looks to add something to the team that we’ve sorely lacked over recent times.

He looks a snip, let’s hope he can stay fit and kick on.

Malc Dugdale says...

Jack Diamond

While I recognise the contribution that Dion Sanderson made to the team, as a young loan player I feel less comfortable awarding him a player of the season or even young player award.

If rumours are true and he is close to signing up for a longer-term Sunderland career, then I may re-write this paragraph, but his contribution will be a distant memory if that doesn’t happen.

I’d award young player of the season to Jack Diamond. His goal against Lincoln mentioned by Martin was a huge touch of class from such a young prospect. He was man of the match for me in that game and he was taken off at half-time due to being on a yellow card, such was his drive and commitment to win.

I honestly think people like Diamond and Embleton were a victim of the wider squad depth and systems we were forced to play as they could and should have played many more games.

Had we started the season with a younger squad and a different set of tactics for the whole sequence, we would see that these type of players can get teams promoted from this league, as Embleton proved on loan.

When Diamond runs at the opposition he does something not many of the squad can - he scares defenders. I fully expect both to be integral to our success this season coming. Lets hope I am right.

Sunderland v Carlisle : Pre-Season Friendly
Another big year ahead for Jack Diamond
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Anthony Gair says...

Jack Diamond

There have been many-a-murmur throughout the fans opinions which have been crying out for pace and directness. Jack Diamond fits that bill.

Although, Jack may not yet be the finished article, there is a lot of promise to his play.

Multiple times he came off the bench (or started) to show that he’s capable of being as good as Jones or Gooch, and just lacks a touch of consistency which would see him as one of the better players in the league.

Hopefully next season he gets further opportunities to develop, as we love a home grown talent here at Sunderland, and nothing would please us more to see one of our own blossom into a fine footballer.

Michael Dunne says...

Denver Hume

Dion Sanderson was probably one of our best players overall this season so for variety, I will mention another player who I believe is growing year on year. Denver Hume.

It is easy to forget that Hume is still only 22 years of age. Certainly not the finished article yet but Denver has shown potential that could be a strong asset for this club for years if he decides to stay.

As well as his mainly solid defensive duties, Hume is an asset going forward. His ability to find himself in the opposition's box and cause serious problems is likely one of the main reasons for Lee Johnson trying to keep him at the club. He adds pace, directness and the odd goal.

I like Denver Hume a lot and if he can stay fit, I have no doubt he will fulfil his potential at a higher level. The question is, will he sign the new contract?

Lincoln City v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Playoff - Semi Final - First Leg - LNER Stadium Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images


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