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RR End of Year Review: Our favourite Sunderland player and goal of 2023!

In today’s 2023 retrospective, our writers pick their favourite Sunderland goal and their best Lads player of the year!

Photo by Barrington Coombs/PA Images via Getty Images


Andy Thompson says…

Goal of the year: Dennis Cirkin v West Bromwich Albion

With so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick one out, but if had to choose just one, I think it would have to be Cirkin’s second goal against West Brom.

At that time, we were still chasing the playoffs and there seemed to be an outside chance that we might just do it. The build up play, the finish and especially the celebrations had me jumping around my front room like a nutter and it was at that point that I started to believe we may just make the top six.

It also made me realise what a wonderful bunch of players we now have at the club and their celebrations showed us all that they wanted to be here and be successful with us.

Player of the year: Trai Hume

He epitomises exactly what this club represents at the moment and I think it’s fair to say that 2023 has been his year.

He broke into the team at the start of 2023 and he’s finishing the year as a mainstay. His performances have been nothing short of exemplary and when he does have a bad game, he’s always able to come back stronger.

It seems like Hume is destined for the Premier League.

He’s comfortable on the ball and offers so much both in and out of possession. His love for a big challenge endears him further to our fans and I just hope we can hold on to him for another full year.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Anthony Gair says…

Goal of the year: Amad v Preston

Qualifying for the playoffs meant so much at the time, so when Amad swung the ball into the top corner from twenty five yards, the relief was palpable and nobody could believe that we had a player with that kind of ability.

What a goal!

Player of the year: Jack Clarke

His improvement during 2023 has been astronomical.

He was scoring at the back end of 2022/2023 and was the first name on the team sheet, but he's even better now than he was in early January.

Long may he continue to improve and become a huge player during our promotion push.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Ewan Bowman says…

Goal of the year: Patrick Roberts v Watford

Such a great strike, cutting in from the right and shooting into the top corner.

That goal effectively kept our playoff chances alive ahead of the trip to Preston on the final day.

Player of the year: Jack Clarke

Technically superb, he goes past players with ease and his quality has improved massively over the past twelve months.

Clarke is a player we simply have to keep in January if we’re going to push for the playoffs again.

He’s scored ten goals and registered one assist so far this season and I wouldn't bet against him reaching twenty goals for the season. A fantastic player who’s a joy to watch in a Sunderland shirt.

Sunderland v Birmingham City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Kyle Garrett says…

Goal of the year: Amad v Preston

A strike that summed up Amad’s season: a goal on the biggest stage at a crucial point in the game, as we were going into the break 1-0 down.

As soon as he hit it, the whole stadium knew exactly where it was going, and it capped off the Ivorian’s time on Wearside very nicely.

As Mitch says below, there’s a long list of top quality goals we’ve scored this year, so I’d like to give a special mention to Jack Clarke’s goals against Preston and Bristol City, as well as Dennis Cirkin’s strike against West Brom.

Player of the year: Jack Clarke

An easy question, and although we’ve had a number of good performers this year, we’d be a lot worse off without Clarke.

He’s scored more goals than any other player and has created his fair share as well.

When a team shuts out Clarke, they often shut out Sunderland. He’s so important to everything we do and the longer he’s our player, the better.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Mitch Marshall says…

Goal of the year: Jack Clarke v Blackburn

Having been at Ewood Park last season, where we lost in quite a disappointing manner, this felt like a real sign of the progress we’ve made over the course of this year.

Despite going 1-0 down early in the game and having to hang on at times, we rallied incredibly well to make it in at half time with a 2-1 lead.

We then saw out the second half with great maturity, and there was a real swagger to how we sealed the deal. Clarke showed great calmness to dance through Rovers’ defence, taking the ball past the goalkeeper before tapping into an empty net and blowing kisses to the enraptured away fans.

At that moment, I didn’t feel afraid of any side in the Championship and I was starting to get a bit carried away that we were the real deal.

We’ve had something of a reality check since then, but having a team capable of the mix of resilience and panache we showed that day, summed up by Clarke’s mazy dribbling and assured finish, has made being a Sunderland supporter in 2023 more enjoyable than it’s been for many a year.

Player of the year: Dan Neil

My reasons for this are twofold: he’s been both our most consistent and our most improved player of 2023.

Stepping into the shoes of captain Corry Evans, the homegrown midfielder has gone from strength to strength. He’s also scored some great goals, with the crisp finish against Blackburn and the recent dink at home against West Brom quickly coming to mind.

More importantly, he’s dictated play from midfield and generally held things together with aplomb. That’s no small achievement for a player whose appearance statistics bely the fact that he’s still only twenty two years old.

Along with Clarke and Dan Ballard, he’s one of the players I’d be most gutted to see leave, either in January or the summer.

In a team lacking outright physicality, his job is all the more difficult, but he marries steel with silk in a way that the likes of Lee Cattermole or Lorik Cana would be proud of. He may not always be as exciting as more attacking players like Clarke or Jobe, but I think we saw just how integral he is to our success after he got sent off against Middlesbrough earlier this season.

We were all at sea and totally unbalanced without his steadying influence and a bit like Evans before him, his is often the work that goes unnoticed until it isn’t there, even though he clearly does have showpiece moments in his locker, whether that be a pinpoint cross-field pass or a deft pass and move to create or score a goal.

In my eyes, he’s the most rounded player we’ve got, and what’s more, he’s one of our own!

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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