it ended as it began for sorry Sunderland – in the North London sun, desperately hanging on to protect a hard-earned point against superior opponents.
At the Emirates, Arsenal could not cut through the purple wall erected by Martin O’Neill.
By virtue of Gareth Bale’s peerless left foot, Tottenham went one better yesterday and it ended an insipid campaign on an appropriate note for a club which has gone backwards this year.
Paolo Di Canio has pretensions of ending this mediocrity and he is absolved of the blame, but for everyone else there is no dressing it up – 17th in the Premier League is a woeful return for a club of Sunderland’s size and support.
We will cling on to one or two positives which emerged at White Hart Lane, of course.
The resolute defence which ultimately helped Sunderland cling on to their top-flight status was in evidence for long periods as Tottenham’s frustration mounted, while Di Canio’s ‘pit bull’ Jack Colback continues to make ferocious progress.
In midfield, Alfred N’Diaye seems to be getting better with every game and Sunderland’s away support was tremendously spirited.
Other than that? The depressing answer as we sift through the wreckage of this campaign is there’s not much else, really.
That must be scant consolation for Ellis Short after he preceded the season by spending more than Sunderland have ever spent in one day.
If that sounds harsh, it is nothing compared to the bombs which rained down on his squad from Di Canio after the game as he ripped into a lack of professionalism in his club.
Damning Phil Bardsley for the distasteful picture of him surrounded by money which emerged after his players “celebrated” survival, he widened his attack to seven other players who had also been fined for ill discipline and the general culture he has encountered on Wearside.
It was remarkable, riveting stuff from Di Canio.
Quite how he plans to make such wholesale changes to the squad in the space of seven or eight weeks is unclear, but the short, sharp shock which many have felt Sunderland needed for a long time is coming – whether his squad want it or not.
Labelling the squad as less professional than League One Swindon was quite a statement.
How it goes down in the dressing room remains to be seen but he has the backing of the Wearside public, who must be fed up of too much underachievement.
He has the backing of Short, too, who has watched in dismay as successive managers have squandered the cash he has made available.
It is about to get very interesting indeed at the Stadium of Light.
That is more than you can say about much of the football on show this season.
Yesterday was no different and Di Canio was right to raise his eyes when someone congratulated him for his team’s performance in the press conference afterwards.
They were resolute but lacking in quality. Bardsley’s night out meant they were a further body down and the threadbare team which remained looked exactly what they are – the fourth-worst team in a poor division.
Tottenham began with the intent of a team tilting for a place at Europe’s top table, while Sunderland bore the same hallmarks of uncertainty which have bedevilled them for most of the campaign. A long, raking through-ball as early as the fourth minute nearly reaped an early reward for the home side as John O’Shea was caught out by the bounce, but thankfully Sunderland’s one truly outstanding player Simon Mignolet was able to make the smartest of stops at his near post. The fear was it would set the tone for one way traffic, but if Tottenham bossed possession they were largely unable to convert it into tangible opportunities.
At one point deep into the first half Sunderland had enjoyed less than 23% of the ball but their only moment of anxiety was when Bale, at high velocity, tangled with Seb Larsson.
As White Hart Lane bayed for a penalty and a red card, Andre Marriner was unmoved – his only tariff a caution to Bale for diving.
His blueprint for containing Tottenham might have been played to perfection but an animated Di Canio appeared less than impressed with some of Sunderland’s offensive moves.
As the ball bounced off the body of the insipid Connor Wickham, he appeared to signal for young striker Mikael Mandron to come on, which would have been some statement of intent from the Italian. He allowed the £9million man to continue and his faith was nearly rewarded when Wickham exchanged passes with Danny Graham and then forced a save from Hugo Lloris.
Spurs could feel their chances of a Champions League place slipping through their fingers and the half-time whistle was the cue for sporadic jeers from the White Hart Lane regulars.
Some might have been for Marriner but others appeared frustrated at the prospect of a fifth-place finish. Perhaps they should try enduring the frustration of being a Sunderland supporter for a season.
For all of the witlessness which has been served up by the Black Cats this season, their travelling support remains a reassuring constant.
They spent the second half acclaiming their derby win over Newcastle – they actually deserve much more for their steadfast faith in a club that has conspired to rob them of much to be enthusiastic about over recent seasons.
The second half saw further resolve from Sunderland. David Vaughan saw red for two bookable offences and Tottenham struggled to break down the Black Cats until Bale produced a moment of characteristic brilliance.
It was a miserable conclusion for the unlamented class of 2012/13, which Di Canio seems determined to break up.
The revolution is under way.