The "Villain" of the season?
Ey up one and all! Before we all turn our attention to a summer of transfer speculation we here at Roker Report wanted to have a look back at the turbulent season past, but with that RR twist that you have come to know and love.
We start today as I take you through my top ten WORST moments of the season. It's a bit like the chart show but for people with more taste, such you esteemed Roker Report followers!
Whilst I drew the short straw with the punishment of sifting through the moments of the season we would all rather forget, my illustrious colleague Chris Weatherspoon will wrap things up with, yes, you guessed it, the top ten BEST moments of the season! So be sure to wrap your optical receptors around that lovely piece of literature tomorrow!
So without further ado, straight in at number ten!...
Number 10... Craig Gordon's Broken Arm, Part 2
Flash may not be every Sunderland fan's cup of tea and certainly there are areas of his game that need work, but what the Scot does have is Premiership experience, the importance of which can not be underestimated. So when Craig fell in a heap during a training session and subsequent scans showed a recurrence of his original break the gaffer must have been nervous. This left Bruce starting the season with new signing Simon Mignolet having to make the step up to first team action, well ahead of any schedule that the backroom staff would have had in mind for the Belgian. The whole of Sunderland breathed a sigh of relief when Simon came good.
Number 9... Keiran Richardson, The Club's New Left Back?
I'm sure I was not the only fan that raised an eyebrow when the Lister for Red Dwarf look-a-like signed a new contract under the understanding that he was to be employed as a left back. Hey, Keiran had even been watching footage of the Brazilian Maicon, so he must be good. If you were to ask me which part of Richardson's game was his weakest I would have to go for his defensive attributes, which made the gaffer's decision all the more baffling. However, as was par for the course this season, injuries were to limit Richardson's game time, during which time Phil Bardsley proved more adapt playing out of position.
Once back from injury Richardson was unable to shake Bardsley from the defensive spot and was pushed into, what I would class his more natural habitat, the opposition half. A move which instantly paid off with his first half brace at Blackpool.
If Sunderland are to really progress we need to have players in their natural positions, rather than try and shoehorn another player into the slot in the hope they will do well. If this means new faces being brought into the squad, then so be it.
Number 8... Sunderland 1-2 Notts County (FA Cup)
I can perfectly understand the side that Bruce put out for this clash against Paul Ince's League One outfit. Allowing such fringe players as Paulo Da Silva, Cristian Riveros, Andy Reid and Marcos "wow, is that Jesus?" Angeleri a chance to prove their worth came as no real shock. What did come as a shock however was the totally abject performance that was put in by the very players that were knocking on the gaffer's door begging for a a chance. Let's learn from this in the coming season and take advantage of the fantastic young players we have here at Sunderland, I'm sure they will put in more of a shift than the South American's did that afternoon.
Number 7... Fraizer Campbell's Injury
You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel for Campbell. Fraizer was going into the new season on a high having bagged himself a load of goals over the pre-season period and Sunderland looked set to start the season with a young and exciting strike force, Bruce seemingly spoilt for choice. However disaster was to strike during the home win over Manchester City towards the end of August when the youngster ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments following a tackle with Micah Richards. Right there an then his season was over. Bruce called it a tragedy and given the injuries we were yet to suffer it would be hard to disagree.
Number 6... Stoke City 3 - 2 Sunderland
Whilst we were not the first side to leave the Britannica with nothing to show for our trip, the manner of the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow. Having taken the lead twice Sunderland, with more than a little feeling of inevitability, succumbed to Stoke's last gasp aerial bombardment. The officials did little to help the travelling side as a succession of offsides, handballs and fouls on the goalkeeper went unpunished and Sunderland were to ship two late goals. This was to be the second in a run of four straight defeats.
Number 5... Danny Welbeck's Injury
Having been utilised at times out wide, Welbeck really came into his own when moved into a more familiar forward role, an opportunity he took with both hands. Welbeck's pace and directness made him a nightmare for the opposition to deal with and the talk on the terrace turned to how much it would cost to convince Sir Alex to release the exciting striker. However Sunderland's injury hoodoo was to strike again, which ultimately added up to SAFC facing the possibility of finishing the season without a recognised striker. Things were not looking good.
Number 4... Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle United
Revenge was on the cards. The boss believed it. The players believed it. Hell, they even had us fans believing it. Yet again however when it came to the crunch Sunderland fell short, again. Newcastle travelled to the Stadium of Light ready to fight for their cause, scrap for every ball, every 50/50 something Sunderland, worryingly, didn't seem up for. The Magpie's deservedly made their domination count as they took a lead through Nolan as Sunderland struggled to deal with another dangerous set piece from Barton.
Hoping to inspire a reaction from their side, the fans rallied behind the team, however, disappointingly, Sunderland failed to create a clear cut chance. In fact we only managed to put two chances on target - simply not good enough. It took a fluke of a goal deep, deep, deep, deep into injury time to salvage a point, which felt more like daylight robbery than anything the home side actually deserved. Still, a point's a point and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Number 3... Sunderland 2-3 West Bromwich Albion
Whilst some fans will argue that Sunderland's Premier League safety was never in doubt given our good start to the season this result went some way to start alarm bell's ringing. In typical SAFC fashion we were to throw away a 2-1 half time lead as the visiting side pulled the game level as Mulumbu's shot was deflected off Turner and past a helpless Mignolet. The Black Cats crumbled. Whilst the home side struggled to even put together a series of passes West Brom seized upon their host's obvious disarray and left with the three points courtesy of a winning goal from Paul Scharner.
The Sunderland fans made their feelings know at full-time as the Wearsider's made it eight games without a win, undoubtedly relegation form.
Number 2... Newcastle United 5-1 Sunderland
I'll keep this brief, I promise! Sunderland had started the season strongly, with standout results including a home win over Manchester City before five consecutive draws, including three of the top sides in English football; Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. The Black Cat's were making the short journey North high on confidence after earning a point at Blackburn and a home victory over Aston Villa the weekend before the big game.
Some fans expected Sunderland to wipe the floor with their newly promoted rivals, the majority expected a win and even the most pessimistic of fans were more than hopeful of leaving with a point. What nobody predicted was the way in which Sunderland would implode that afternoon and gift a result to the old enemy that Newcastle fans will taunt us with for eternity.
Number 1... Darren Bent
This truly rocked me as not only a Sunderland fan but as a fan of the sport in general. Darren's career was at a standstill. Unloved by Spurs and going nowhere fast until SAFC offered him a golden ticket. Bent was to repay the faith shown in him tenfold during his first season and instantaneously became a fan favourite. Darren's form whilst at Sunderland also helped him regain a place in the England squad. The fan's adored Bent and from his ramblings on Twitter the feeling was reciprocated. Everything seemed perfect.
Then the January transfer window came around and the day of the Wear/Tyne derby our talismatic forward rocked the Sunderland board with a transfer request before hiding away in a Birmingham Hotel until a deal with Aston Villa was struck. The club's hands were tied, reluctant to lose their star player, but also wary of keeping an unhappy player on the books before having to sell him at a loss in the Summer. So off he went.
The transfer not only affected the squad numbers wise but also morale was clearly dented. Any football side losing such a reliable striker with that uncanny knack of finding the back of the net would struggle, but throw into the mix SAFC's injury situation and run of fixtures after Christmas and it was a disaster of epic proportions.
Call it bitter, which it probably is, but I couldn't help but have a laugh when following speculation surrounding Stewart Downing and Ashley Young's Aston Villa future Darren felt the need to come out in the national press and let everyone know that if the pair were to leave he too would have to consider his future with the club. Glad to see you're doing your best to dispel the opinion that you are just another mercenary in the game. I look forward to your return to Sunderland next season Benty lad, with whichever club that may be.
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