Does Martin O'Neill surpass any other signing we made this season? Read on and find out!
Now it's time to get the views on our season from Iain Macintosh, top writer for places as far flung as The New Paper in Singapore and Sports Illustrated, but also closer to home in The Blizzard and BT's Life's A Pitch.
Oh, and how could we forget one of our favourite sites and podcasts (that aren't ourselves), the wonderful Red, White & Blue. Get yourself over to www.redwhiteandblue.tv for subscriptions, articles and awesomeness.
Don't forget to follow Iain on Twitter (@IainMacintosh) too for insightful and illuminating comment on all things footballing. You will not regret it. Got that? Ok, you're now allowed to check out some top quality opinions.Player Of The Season?
Iain: He does my head in sometimes, but Sessegnon has been far better this season. When he's on form, he has the ability to do things that very few of his team-mates could do without tripping themselves up. I still swear there's more to come from him, if he hangs around long enough.
Young Player Of The Season?
Iain: Steve Bruce must lie in bed at night staring at the ceiling, wondering why he didn't give James McClean a chance when he was in charge. He's a proper, chalk all over his boots winger, he's got zip, he's got tenacity and he's got a couple of hairy swingers between his legs that give him the courage to keep running at people, even if it didn't work last time. Look at him, then look at Stewart Downing. Then laugh yourself inside-out.
Best Signing Of The Season?
Iain: Martin O'Neill. I do feel a little sorry for Bruce, he had to deal with losing Darren Bent to Villa and Asamoah Gyan to lucrative semi-retirement, but something wasn't quite clicking with his team. Every now and then, they hinted at something beautiful, and then it was gone. O'Neill's Sunderland can't really be called beautiful, but by thunder they get the job done. They're organised now, cohesive and disciplined. It bodes well.
Most Disappointing Player Of The Season?
Iain: I would have liked to have seen more of Connor Wickham. It's hardly his fault that he hasn't played more, he's had knocks and niggles, but on the few occasions I've caught him I haven't been blown away. It's a hell of a thing for a young man to move so far and work under so much more scrutiny, but he hasn't shown enough yet to prove that he can sustain himself here.
Goal Of The Season?
Iain: David Vaughan's 25 yard thunderbastard against Blackburn didn't just level the game, it kickstarted the O'Neill revolution. If he hadn't have scored, would Sunderland have gone on that run? Would they have clawed their way up the table? It's the goal that started everything.
Game Of The Season?
Iain: I didn't see it, but my wife and daughter played on South Shields beach while I sat in the car and listened to it. Sunderland's 3-3 draw at Manchester City very nearly ended the title race there and then. I'm still not sure how they managed to let that one slip. An astonishing game. Well worth a night in the spare room.
Who do you think Sunderland should be looking at buying this summer?
Iain: I should be careful here, because last season I laid out a thoroughly convincing argument to sign Nicklas Bendtner and that didn't work out perfectly, did it? If I was O'Neill, I'd go bargain-hunting. I'd want Grant Hanley from Blackburn, he's an excellent young centre-back. I'd also want Steven Fletcher from Wolves, a thoroughly underated striker who can hold the ball up and bring others into the game.
There's also talk of a clearout. Is there a player you think might not be as safe as they'd consider themselves?
Iain: Given the way that Sunderland have faded, I don't think anyone will consider themselves safe this summer. I have a sneaking suspicion that Bendtner views Sunderland as a late-night, ‘I haven't pulled, but I'm not going home alone' booty call option. He may be in for a nasty shock.
What was your personal highlight of the season?
Iain: George Cauklin from The Times handing out lollypops after the desperately dull Sunderland - Spurs game towards the end of the season. Those lollys were just about all anyone took from that game.
Do you think the improvement made under Martin O'Neill will continue into next season, and what should be the aim?
Iain: Sunderland will always be held back by their lack of financial muscle. Man Utd make almost £3.5m per home game in matchday revenue, Arsenal make £3m per home game in match day revenue. Sunderland make £13m a SEASON in matchday revenue. It's going to be hard to compete. But there's no reason why, with that stadium and those fans, they can't become a regular face in the top eight and enjoy a run in one of the cups. Under O'Neill, I think they'll do exactly that.
Thanks once again to Iain, and remember to check out not only the excellent Red, White & Blue podcast, but also keep your eyes on his Twitter @IainMacintosh for details of a brilliant new book on the life of a Football Manager addict coming out soon!