Yes, the international break is over! The transfer window has closed and it's once again time to lull yourself into a false sense of security and hand over your cash to the all-singing, all-dancing, Sunderland AFC.
Sheffield United have enjoyed a strong start to this season, winning four of their six games so far. They have enjoyed a busy transfer window, having brought in ten players since promotion from League One, including promising Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chelsea goalkeeping prodigy Jamal Blackman. Though it's fair to say some of their fans are unimpressed with what they deem a lack of investment by the board, anything more than a packet of crisps would be a welcome addition to our own team and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder will be confident that the business done in the transfer window will be enough to overpower a still-fragile Sunderland side.
The truth of the matter is that we should be treating this as a huge game. We haven't had the worst start possible, but it's close, and Grayson's men will have to be on their game to prove a point to the home crowd. The manager has already absolved the club of blame by claiming no extra spending was necessary: a very bold move indeed from the man, words that might come back to bite him if this team can't punch it's weight.
With the introduction of new faces and the farewell to old ones, one would hope the energy in the dressing room is high and that can only bring positive things to the pitch. It's a long old season and we aren't being reinforced until 2018 now, so it's crucial that when we batten down the hatches we're prepared for the storm to come. The squad we've got now is the squad that will make us or break us in this league. Good luck to them.
A hamstring injury for Aiden McGeady will cause Grayson some restless leg syndrome ahead of team selection, with the gem of our transfer business picking up the injury on international duty. He'll be due a late fitness test.
Duncan Watmore has returned to full training but won't be available for selection.
The manager also confirmed that McManaman, Williams and Wilson will all feature in the squad for the match, though we can likely expect limited roles due to their lack of match fitness.
New signing Clayton Donaldson is expected in the squad, alongside young Premier League loanees Carter-Vickers and Jamal Blackman.
Leon Clarke and Caolan Lavary are the only notable absences for the Blades.
What the managers said
On Grayson’s record: What Simon did there proves you can do it without large amounts of cash. Organisation, good characters and a great team spirit can take you a long way. You can have the most expensive (players) out there but, if you don’t have those qualities, you won’t get very far.
On the game: We won’t change our approach. We’ve played two very tough games on the road. Middlesbrough are everyone’s favourites to go up and Cardiff City, the early leaders, have started off like a house on fire. But we were in both games and certainly, at Middlesbrough, should have taken a point. We’re a team that likes to attack, that likes to get forward and play exciting football. That’s not going to alter. I don’t think our fans would want us to and I don’t think it should.
We want to win every game we are involved in. What has happened previously is nothing that I can affect. We can affect what is going to happen in the future. We have had some decent performances at home - the Derby game and for 20-30 minutes we were the better team against Leeds.
To be honest I haven't really looked at the league table. It has been a busy schedule. There is a long way to go. It is where you finish, not where you start.
Any time a team comes to the Stadium of Light its gonna be a big game for them because of the size of the club and the magnitude of our club as well. We have got to be aware of that and that is something we have to deal with. We have got a huge amount of respect for Sheffield United and Chris Wilder - with what they have done. They’ve got some good players and a lot of momentum.
Whilst it’s not unlikely that Marc Wilson could feature, I still expect Kone and Browning to partner up in the centre of defence, and despite conceding three against Barnsley it does seem likely that Simon Grayson will keep faith in his back five for this game at least.
At the top of the pitch I’m expecting a slight change - with McManaman and Williams both available for selection, those coming in to the side in place of Honeyman and Vaughan should (hopefully) see us field a more balanced side. Provided Aiden McGeady passes a late fitness test he’ll most certainly play.
It's impossible to judge the efficacy of the squad right now, as is always the case with a fairly busy transfer window, but what we saw in the build-up to this match simply wasn't good enough and unless the dressing room reshuffle injects some much needed potency into this side, we can't expect anything resembling a walk in the park. As stressed above: Sunderland need to be firing on all cylinders to present the loyal crowd with the victory they richly need, and sorely deserve.
With that in mind, and against my instincts, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe that they know how vital it is that we stamp our name on this league as soon as possible. I'll plump for a hard fight and a scraped win at the death. 2-1 to Sunderland.
As an aside...
Sunderland AFC haven't won a game at the Stadium of Light since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thereby triggering a chain reaction that may very well result in the downfall of Humanity as we know it. So it was written and so it shall come to pass, unless... Sunderland can win a home game. Granted it's not much of a plan, but it's all we've got. And there's no greater motivation than pulling together for the species, boys and girls.