A handful of journalists witnessed David Moyes’ final press conference as Sunderland manager.
At the same time as Chelsea were enjoying a lavish ceremony on the Stamford Bridge pitch to celebrate their Premier League title success, Moyes was addressing around half a dozen journalists in the Chelsea press room.
When Antonio Conte, complete with glass of champagne compared to a glass of water for Moyes, spoke to the press pack a while later it was standing room only.
Chelsea – and the substitution of the departing John Terry – was the main story that day.
But Moyes quickly became the story on Monday teatime when it was announced that following talks with owner Ellis Short and chief executive Martin Bain the Scot had fallen on his sword, leaving just one-year into a four-year deal and leaving without any compensation.
Having lost an increasingly large section of the Sunderland support and with it becoming increasingly clear the Black Cats will again be limited by finances this summer, Moyes decided he was no longer the man to help the club bounce back from relegation.
But where did it all go wrong?
Chatting to Moyes in the stands of the club’s Evian base on the banks of Lake Geneva last pre-season, concerns were clearly evident over the lack of strength in depth of the Sunderland squad.
Sunderland were yet to make a summer signing and they had Charles N’Zogbia on trial.
With limited funds and time in short supply before the window closed, time was of the essence.
Not a big budget compared to Premier League standards but Moyes still spent £13.6million on Didier Ndong, £8million on Papy Djilobodji and £5.5million on Paddy McNair and Donald Love. Not all of that money up front, of course. Sunderland, like many clubs, stagger payments.
Ndong has been one of the few highlights but aside from that none of the other transfer business can be deemed a success. Limited funds spent poorly.
Moyes conceded that he would have to bolster his squad with free agents who would only be around for a year at best. Step forward Steven Pienaar and Victor Anichebe.
A patched-up squad devoid of quality. Failure to land another striker proved pivotal.
The decision not to bring back proven central midfielder Yann M’Vila a mistake. Central midfield has been a problem all season.
The January recruits (Darron Gibson, Bryan Oviedo and free agent Joleon Lescott) fared no better with Moyes again hamstrung by finances. Loanees Javier Manquillo, Jason Denayer and Adnan Januzaj were underwhelming with the latter a huge disappointment.
Injuries to key players compounded Sunderland’s problems but the squad never looked strong enough from the off.
Tactical and selection errors:
Moyes had his reasons for not playing Wahbi Khazri more often; concerns over him giving the ball away too often and not scoring or assisting enough in his limited first team chances.
But when you consider that Januzaj failed to score in 25 appearances and only managed three assists, then it is clear Khazri should have been given more chances.
Would he have helped keep Sunderland up? With the Black Cats finishing 16 points from safety you’d have to argue not but it was a mistake to freeze him out.
It was a mistake too not to play Anichebe up front alongside Defoe, rather than out wide once he’d returned from injury.
Sunderland – who haven’t won at home since December 17 – were too conservative in their approach, pedestrian in midfield and lacking pace throughout the side.
With that combination, relegation was on the cards from the opening weeks of the season.
Honesty perhaps not always the best policy:
Moyes was honest with fans the moment he walked in the door, admitting after the home defeat against Middlesbrough that the club would be facing another relegation battle.
He was, of course, proved right. But it set the tone for the season, with Moyes’ often downbeat demeanour a stick to beat him with for angry and frustrated fans.
The Scot was good to deal with from a press point of view but it was clear having lost a large number of the fans and unrest in the camp that it was time to go.
Moyes will point to the off field issues around the finances as a key factor in why he failed at Sunderland.
Sunderland have debts of £110million, a mammoth wage bill of £83.8million – which accounted for 77.6 percent of the club’s turnover in the year to July 31, 2016.
That will be slashed by 40 per cent this summer due to relegation reduction clauses but the club’s income will be hit by a £70million drop in revenue from the lucrative television deal so the percentage of wages to turnover will remain high. Very high.
A £44million parachute payment will help ease the financial blow along with inevitable player sales but with staggered transfer fees still to be paid off, there have been no guarantees that money will be available to help revamp the squad given the debt and drop in income.
Moyes was right to fall on his sword but the financial picture facing the next manager remains bleak.
What Sunderland fans would give to see their next manager toasting a league title success with champagne.