In what was turning into a wretched season for David Moyes and Sunderland, the hope was that the Sunderland manager could somehow recruit some decent players to avoid what was already looking like an inevitable drop to the second tier of English football.
Moyes’ tenure as Sunderland manager had turned into a damp squib - with the former Everton and Manchester United manager failing to supply the steeliness and drive that originally earned him the biggest job in world football by replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the Old Trafford hotseat.
Truthfully, deep down, we all knew it was doomed to fail when the Scot came out with one of the most bizarre statements after the second game of the season. When asked what he would say to the fans’ concerns of another season of struggle, he responded with the below.
Well, they would probably be right because that’s where they’ve been every other year for the last four years, so why would it suddenly change?
I think it will be, I don’t think you can hide the facts, that will be the case, yes. People will be flat because they are hoping that something is going to dramatically change - it can’t dramatically change, it can’t.
Whilst he turned out to be correct in his predictions, the tone was set from the outset - leaving a dark, dreary cloud hanging over the club for the entire season.
By the time the end of January 2017 came around, the club was languishing in 19th place. Former Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce - who had left the team for the English national team job - was now at Crystal Palace. He came back to haunt his previous employers in the January window by nabbing one of our best players of that season in Patrick van Aanholt for an admittedly excellent £14m.
His loss was felt massively, although it was hope his replacement, Bryan Oviedo, would provide a little more stability in the position.
Moyes bemoned the lack of business that he could complete on deadline day. The club were heavily linked with a move for Leicester City striker Leonardo Ulloa - with a final bid said to be around £7.5 million. Leicester refused to sell to a rival club near the bottom, with Ulloa frustrated at not getting the move.
With striker Victor Anichebe injured, Sunderland were left short up front - and Moyes attempted to play down his disappointment in not recruiting any new faces.
I don’t know if I would say frustrated. We tried to add to the squad if we could. We knew it would be a difficult few days in trying to get what we wanted.
The injury to Victor Anichebe is what made things a lot harder for us, we had to look at things differently then. It wasn’t through the want of trying. Some players we couldn’t get and some clubs didn’t want to sell us players we wanted.
With the club failing to attract any new players of note on deadline day, the manager tried to reaffirm his hope that team spirit and togetherness could hopefully propel them out of the relegation zone and into safety.
Their 0-0 result against Mauricio Pochettino’s high-flying Tottenham was a rare positive in the season. Almost wholly down to a solid defensive structure, Sunderland frustrated the London side without really creating any chances themselves - Fabio Borini’s three half chances all the home side mustered.
Moyes was happy overall with the performance - and wanted the team to build on it.
Now we need to get a great team spirit going here, a togetherness, we need to be rugged and at times a bit ugly. We did that at times tonight against Tottenham and we have to maintain that.
This result – and the next game’s 4-0 win away to Allardyce and van Aanholt’s Crystal Palace – were rare successes in a desperate season. Sunderland finished bottom without ever really throwing a punch - and Moyes resigned the day after our final fixture.
The downward spiral had just begun.