Report card: Sunderland’s roller-coaster ride brings dizzying highs and sickening plunges

It’s a long way from Paolo Di Canio to Connor Wickham via a cup final and several startling runs, good and bad, writes James Fielden...

The lowdown

Only two teams in the Premier League era have been bottom at Christmas and survived. Unlike West Brom's great escape in 2005, Sunderland's safety was confirmed before the final day of the season, but there were still some memorable results en-route to safety.

The season started in dangerous disarray under Paolo Di Canio, as Sunderland became only the fourth Premier League side to take one point from their opening eight games. Di Canio’s inevitable exit didn’t seem to improve things amazingly: despite Gus Poyet winning two of his first four games, by Christmas they'd taken just 10 points from 17 games.

However, a Boxing Day win at Everton kicked them into gear and by early February’s 3-0 win at hopeless Newcastle they had only lost once in nine league games. Meanwhile, they were winning cup games, reaching the League Cup final and FA Cup quarter-final.

The cup runs took their toll as a pitiful haul of two points from 27 during February and March saw them slip from 14th to bottom, seven points adrift with six to play. Then came the magic: Connor Wickham scored two to gain a draw at Manchester City – some small revenge for defeat in the League Cup final – before a historic victory at Chelsea, a demolition of alleged relegation rivals Cardiff, a win at Old Trafford and a safety-sealing home win against West Brom to finish a barely credible 14th.

Would they have taken this in August?

Yes. True, they only got 38 points, and perhaps they could have done without the stress, but they only finished 17th last year and it has been an unforgettable roller-coaster – not forgetting their first cup final for 22 years.

Would they have taken this in January?

Err, yeah.

High point

Chelsea 1‐2 Sunderland. Not just a crucial win for Sunderland but also the first time that Chelsea had lost a home league game under Jose Mourinho. Fabio Borini's late penalty secured the points after Connor Wickham had cancelled out Samuel Eto'o's opener.

Low point

Quite a few to pick from here, but the gods seemed against them in early April when, the week after a 5-1 caning at Poyet’s old side Spurs, they played well at home to Champions League contenders Everton before succumbing to a late Wes Brown own-goal.

Hero of the season

Gus Poyet. After a somewhat messy end to his time at former club Brighton, the jury was out on the Uruguayan’s suitability for the top flight – and particularly a club laid waste by Di Canio. However, he got the job done and now has the benefit of a summer transfer window to reorganise his squad. Although Sunderland’s form swung wildly, Poyet delivered a combination of stunning one-off results and winning runs to create a memorable season.

Villain of the season

Paolo Di Canio. The volatile Italian had already worried a few fans since taking over at the end of the previous season, but a divisive summer of hiring, attempted firing, press-conference rants and PFA investigations ended when he followed up an abject 3-0 defeat at West Brom by walking across the Hawthorns pitch to front up the furious travelling fans. Two days later he was gone.

The season in microcosm

Losing 1‐0 at home to Aston Villa before going down to Fulham and winning 4‐1, partly due to a fantastic Adam Johnson hat‐trick. Just one of the many ups and downs in a crazy season.

FFT grade

C-. Prone to lapses of concentration, but showing plenty of potential when they’re not staring out of the window thinking about forthcoming games periods.

SEE ALSO Read FFT's report cards for the other 19 Premier League teams


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