IN football, there are bad years, really bad years and really, really bad years. Then there is Sunderland in 2017. It is hard to imagine how a club could have endured a more miserable 12 months.

When the Black Cats beat Watford shortly before last Christmas, no one could have envisaged that the decorations would have been back on the tree by the time they next tasted success at the Stadium of Light. Twenty-one home games without a victory was a remarkable run, and while the sequence is finally at an end following last weekend’s win over Fulham, its effect will be felt for a long time yet. Sunderland remain a club tainted by the stench of failure.

The first of those winless home games came on January 2, and saw the Black Cats draw with Liverpool thanks to arguably their best performance of the whole year. Suffice to say, things rapidly went downhill after that.

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The Black Cats fell to the foot of the Premier League when they lost at West Brom in late January, and while a 4-0 win at Crystal Palace hinted at a potential revival, it proved a flash in the pan.

With no money to spend, David Moyes was forced to scramble around to sign Joleon Lescott, Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo before the transfer window closed, and Sunderland’s squad was simply not good enough to survive.

Moyes’ negative, downbeat nature didn’t help either, and by the time Sunderland’s relegation was confirmed with a home defeat to Bournemouth at the end of April, the Scotsman was already heading towards the exit door.

He left shortly after the end of the season, and after a farcical recruitment process that saw Derek McInnes reject Sunderland’s advances in order to remain at Aberdeen, Simon Grayson was eventually appointed as Moyes’ successor.

Grayson’s arrival came shortly after Ellis Short called off talks with a German consortium looking to buy the club, and Sunderland’s problems continue to stem from their owner’s desire to sell up. Short remains in charge, but has no interest in throwing more of his good money after bad. Until that changes, it is hard to see how the Black Cats’ prospects can radically improve.

Grayson had to plunder the transfer bargain bin to assemble a squad in the summer, and while Sunderland started reasonably brightly, briefly rising to fourth when they claimed four points from August away games at Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday, they quickly sunk like a stone.

Their home form was wretched, and their away displays were little better, with a 5-2 thrashing at Ipswich representing a real low. Sunderland were in the bottom three by mid-September, and hit the foot of the table when they lost at Middlesbrough in early November.

Grayson was dismissed in the build-up to that game, and in a rare piece of good news, former Wales boss Chris Coleman agreed to be his replacement.

Coleman has taken a creditable seven points from his first five matches, ending Sunderland’s home hoodoo and taking the club out of the relegation zone. Survival is still far from guaranteed, but at least 2018 will begin with a sense of cautious optimism thanks to the Welshman’s early efforts.


PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Jordan Pickford – The goalkeeper turned in a series of excellent displays despite Sunderland’s struggles last season, and deservedly earned a £30m summer move to Everton.


FLOP OF THE YEAR

Simon Grayson – The former Preston, Leeds and Huddersfield boss looked an astute appointment, but turned out to be anything but. By the time he was dismissed, he looked completely out of his depth.


GAME OF THE YEAR

Sunderland 1 Fulham 0, December 16, 2017


GOAL OF THE YEAR

Aiden McGeady v Norwich City, August 13, 2017


P46 W7 D14 L25 F39 A74

Win Ratio: 15.22%