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Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final

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Two Up, Two Further Up! Picking out the best bits from Sunderland’s playoff final victory

The Lads have finally escaped League One after four gruelling years. What did our panel make of Saturday’s victory over Wycombe?

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says…

A controlled performance

We never looked like doing anything but winning. We were the better team from front to back, and we totally deserved what we got. An amazing shift was put in by the Lads.

A goalkeeper for the future

Anthony Patterson was great, and while calling him out as the next Jordan Pickford is a brave shout, he is certainly a goalkeeper we can rely on for many years to come. Well done son.

Alex Neil is a genius

Once again, the coach played a great hand and we could well have won by more goals and not been flattered.

Wycombe gave us a couple of minor headaches, but the gaffer is just the tactician we need as we look to solidify ourselves in the second tier. A top man, and I’m so happy we got him rather than Roy Keane or anyone else.

We did it!

I have screamed myself hoarse, and I have laughed and cried across this weekend.

This club has reconnected me with my best mate and best man, who I haven’t seen for fifteen-plus years. I’ve also seen my uncle and cousin for the first time in four years, and I’ve spent time with fellow Roker Report lads from all over the UK and Ireland, and gained so many friends for life.

Most of all, though, we did it. We got out of this godawful league, and we are on our way. That, my friends, is priceless, and I can’t wait for next season. Bring it on!

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Mark Wood says…

We actually went and did it!

We won the playoffs, and we are promoted out of League One and back to the Championship.

It wasn’t a fluke or a lucky win- we deserved it and we were the better team. We were also the better team in the semi-final games against Sheffield Wednesday, and were the form team of all the sides involved.

Nobody can take that away from us, and our promotion has been fully deserved.

Full praise should go to Alex Neil

When he took control, you wondered if we would even make the playoffs, given how the season was falling apart at that point, but prior to this match, Neil had steered us through a fifteen-game unbeaten run.

The foundations that he laid have been evident week in and week out, with a few tweaks to our playing style and in personnel, that have made us meaner in defence, and harder to beat.

As mentioned above, he turned us into the league’s form team, and it is these teams that usually win the playoffs. I hope he is rewarded by the club hierarchy and the fans with something that a Sunderland manager hasn’t had in ten years: long term faith, and he is given the whole of next season to take the club even further.

The performance of Patrick Roberts

Both Roberts and Clarke have improved a great deal during the run-in, and particularly in the playoffs. Roberts was my man of the match on Saturday, and Wycombe had their hands full trying to deal with him.

I couldn’t say that anyone had a bad game, and our defenders held firm when Wycombe went long towards the end. Roberts’ deal expires at the end of the season, and although I don’t know what the state of play is regarding to an extension, I hope we can keep him.

Laying to rest a playoff hoodoo

This goes back to 1987, when they were first introduced.

Over the years, I don’t think I have been alone in writing off our chances whenever we have qualified for them, simply because of our history down the years.

Full credit to Alex Neil for instilling a mentality in the players that enabled them to write their own history.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says…

What a goal, Embo!

A brilliant goal to take the lead, and to snatch the initiative away from Wycombe!

On a good day, this lad makes the first eleven every time. He sometimes reminds me of Ian Porterfield in the way he receives and moves the ball. He saw the space, galloped into it, and with defenders backing off him, struck a ‘worldy’ and sent two thirds of the stadium bonkers.

I have only seen the goal back on my mobile, but from my perch up in the gods, the movement on the ball appeared to confuse the keeper as it fizzed it past him. One-nil, and a quality strike at the right time, in the right place.

Evans and hidden pleasures

For me, one of the conundrums of this frantic season has been Corry Evans.

I was delighted when we brought him to the club, and then frustrated as injury and anonymous performances started to affect him. He was not the player I thought we were getting, but as the season has unfolded and the pressure has built, he has come into his own.

His Wembley performance was ‘typical Evans’ - moving the ball calmly, always passing to his own teammates, and appearing to have an antenna for where to be to prevent attacks or to win the ball back.

The guy in front of me had not realised Evans was playing until just before half-time, but for me, that is what he is about: getting on with his game, almost going under the radar. Well played!

Take a bow, Alex Neil

Like many of us, I was disappointed at the manner of Lee Johnson’s departure and the unnecessary drama created in the circus of the selection process.

The dire results that ensued as the club appeared to dither was infuriating, and Alex Neil’s task was not helped at all by this shambles.

Despite this, he got on with the task of fixing a porous and jittery defence, and sensibly rotating players game by game, as well as pulling the best out of some players who appeared to be flagging.

His decision to rest the youngsters was a risk, but it was the right thing to do. He picked the correct team for Wembley, just as he did for the two Sheffield Wednesday ties. His pithy media style, with just a hint of a twinkle in his eye, is both entertaining and accurate, more often than not.

I like him. Let’s keep him!

The fans and joyous abandon

The weekend has been blessed with great company, humorous moments, and joyous celebrations.

I will not be the only one who shed a tear and has lost his voice. We were asked to bring the noise and passion, and like the team, we let nobody down. I awoke this morning with Wise Men Say replaying through my head, and I honestly thought the TV was on! The joyous abandon that met the ‘Loch Ness Drogba’s’ goal was a sight to witness, as tension was released and hope turned to reality.

Well done, lads and lasses. I was proud to be with you all as we turned up and did our job.

Wembley winners is what we are, and we deserved it!

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

Where do you start?

After such a fun weekend, there were so many positives to look back on, so people might struggle to keep it down to four replies!

I thought I would go mental when we got out of this division, but in truth, it was more a sense of relief I felt, and I just wanted to soak in how good it was to be surrounded by a bouncing red and white Wembley crowd.

It is not the biggest prize on offer, but the League One playoff final of 2022 will go down in Sunderland history.

Never in doubt

Despite the nerves in the crowd, and everything that was at stake, that was probably as composed and effective a performance as you could get.

We were dangerous at times, we were firm when we needed to be, and it finally seems as if we have finally mastered the balance needed to become a well-rounded side. Based on the evidence of recent weeks, we’ll be fine in the Championship.

A squad game

From Anthony Patterson’s superb handling to the three lads coming off the bench, everybody played their part.

So many members of that side- and the wider squad and staff- have had personal ‘journeys’ this season, whether it be injuries and form, or issues in their home life (Dennis Cirkin’s post-match tweet was very moving) but they’ve all come together and worked as a group.

It has been a strange season. Not many teams will lose games 5-1 and 6-0, or get beaten by those at the bottom yet still win promotion, but you cannot fault the effort.

Well done, boys!

What a job he’s done!

Our form under Alex Neil has been fantastic, and to do it at the business end of the season makes it even more impressive.

I don’t think we could have wished for a more suitable appointment at that stage. Neil’s skillset and personality are just what the club needed, and it all came to a pass in the buildup and execution of this match.

Fair play to those that made the appointment, which hopefully points to some more sound decisions made over the summer, as Neil and company map out the next chapter.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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