RR: With us coming down from the Premier League some teams might play against us with a little more vigour than they usually would - as is generally the case when big clubs get relegated. What should we expect from sides travelling to the Stadium of Light?
TB: Visiting the Stadium of Light, being the prestigious stadium that it is, will be like a cup final for teams like Burton, so I'd expect cagey performances from teams like that.
On the other hand, top clubs will go there with nothing but a win in mind, and will want to prove a point by taking the scalp of Sunderland. Of course some teams go to away grounds simply to frustrate the opposition, so it'll be a bit of a mixed bag really.
Either way, Sunderland will have to be on the top of their game if they want to rack up more wins than losses.
RR: Your old manager Garry Monk reportedly held talks with Sunderland last week but opted to move to Middlesbrough instead. Why do you think that was?
TB: I must admit I was absolutely gutted when Garry left Leeds, and I'm very surprised that he didn't go to a Premier League side. I think he may have realized the size of the job at Sunderland with the ageing squad and perhaps thought that it may be easier to get Boro promoted at the first time of asking than it would be to do the same with Sunderland.
It’s worrying for us with yet more uncertainty surrounding the club - something Monk was able to shield the players from to a certain extent. He could possibly have done the same at Sunderland too.
RR: Who were the best team at Elland Road last season?
TB: The best team at Elland road last year were Newcastle - we just couldn't get near them at all. But other than that Burton were probably the best side we saw; surprisingly, they gave us a very good game and a 2-0 win was very flattering in the end. Cardiff were decent too, but that's probably because it's a Neil Warnock side and we have a terrible record against Neil Warnock.
RR: Which teams do you expect to be in the top 6?
TB: I'd expect Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa, Norwich and Leeds to be competitive next season. Derby have been knocking on the door for a number of years, so maybe they'll finally make that next step and not bottle it as they do most seasons.
Sunderland may be up there if they get off to the right start and recruitment is good, but I expect a mid table finish from Sunderland. Villa showed just how tricky life in the Championship can be, and Sunderland cannot afford to take the upcoming season lightly.
RR: In terms of support, what should we expect in terms of travelling numbers from smaller clubs?
TB: Smaller clubs bring a fair few fans for the size of their club but still that only amounts to a few hundred fans. It often is their big day out though, so they do put on a decent showing for the size of their support.
The Stadium of Light will be the most exciting venue for a lot of fans next season since they have been in the Premier League for so long, so I would expect large followings from most clubs - and who knows how that will impact games.
RR: Which players impressed you most last season from other Clubs?
TB: Tom Cairney from Fulham is a fantastic player, he was solid all season and really helped with Fulham's promotion push at the end of the year. Tammy Abraham was superb also; he was a nuisance at Leeds and is someone to look out for should he return to the Championship this season - that said, it's expected that he'll go to Newcastle. Sam Winnall had a good season too, and he's one to watch.
In all honesty, there are a lot of underrated players in the Championship which bigger clubs seem reluctant to take a gamble one. Ultimately however, it’s not just about the individuals within a team, but rather how good the team is as a collective unit. Brighton really showed that this year, as did Huddersfield, Reading and a few other sides who performed far better than many expected.
RR: How difficult is it to be consistent in the Championship?
TB: Consistently winning is difficult because of how well matched the top 7/8 are. You can quite easily go from one win in five, to four wins in five in the Championship.
One thing that let us down in the end last season was consistency, but if you can be consistent you can fly right up the table in a short space of games; they come thick and fast in the Championship, and Sunderland will need a decent squad in order to cope with poor form and injures.
Newcastle spent serious money this season and still didn’t walk the league by any means. The league is a lot more difficult than many people suggest, though with a decent squad and the right manager teams can definitely put together impressive series of results.
RR: From an outside perspective where do you see Sunderland next season?
TB: This might seem a little harsh, but I see Sunderland struggling to adapt to the competitiveness of the Championship; especially when you consider how poor you were last season. Anyone can beat anyone in the Championship and although Sunderland could spend some money this summer - that doesn't guarantee success.
I'd expect Sunderland to have a transitional season like Aston Villa did last season before trying to push on the season after that. Jermain Defoe will be a big loss and his goals will need replacing.
It really cannot be stressed enough that the Championship is very competitive now - especially in comparison to the last time you lads were down here. Don’t expect this season to be a cakewalk, and give whoever takes over the club time to assemble a competitive side capable of challenging for promotion. You’ve got a few years of parachute payments left yet, so don’t expect an immediate return to the big time.