Upon our relegation to the third tier it was, by proxy, confirmed that the Stadium of Light would be the biggest venue at that level. For many of our opponents, it will be one of the largest grounds they’ve played at in recent years - and they will no doubt cherish their visit.
With that in mind, then, it’s important for us to make the Stadium of Light a place to be feared rather than an opportunity for an easy three points which it has been for so many years for visiting sides.
The Lads will be well supported next season, with over 18,000 season cards already purchased with months still to go until our League One campaign kicks off. This number is made even more impressive when you think fans have only witnessed seven home victories in the last two seasons.
Visiting sides have found us to be easy to pick off on home soil, mainly because it hasn’t taken much to get the home crowd to turn on their players.
This has been a symptom caused by the fact supporters have been forced to watch a side bang out of form for such a long time - the sometimes toxic atmosphere at the Stadium of Light has been, in the main, justifiable, particularly when you think of some of the abject performances our team has provided us with in recent years.
As with the season which has just passed, next year we’ll likely see swathes of empty seats in the Stadium of Light - even despite the fact our new owners have successfully managed to convince thousands of fans to renews their season cards, it’s an inevitable fall out of our relegation.
Nevertheless, we are sure to have the biggest home attendances in the league - by some margin.
The club with the highest average attendance in League One during the 17/18 campaign were Bradford City, who managed just over 19,000 across the 23 games played at Valley Parade last season. Taking into account the latest season card purchase numbers, it seems more than likely that we’ll comfortably exceed this number. Not many third tier sides will have played a league game in front of a crowd of that size, and rather than allowing them to cherish the experience we need to get the ground rocking as a form of intimidation.
This is something we need to take advantage of, and it’s important that the early optimism we’re feeling at the moment is backed up even further over the summer so that the aura of positivity is still around come August.
It still feels strange mentioning the words ‘Sunderland’ and ‘positivity’ in the same breath, but I could happily get used to it.
With significant financial backing coming from Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven, Jack Ross will have the ability to build a solid team of hardworking players - and with a healthy support behind them at every home game we have the perfect opportunity to return our stadium to its former glory, becoming the fortress of seasons gone by that should, in theory, make Sunderland a difficult place for opposition sides to visit.
If we can create an intimidating atmosphere at each and every home game then we will, quite quickly, become the one club that nobody wants to face in League One next season.
Teams will come to the Stadium of Light knowing that if they are going to walk away with anything they’ll need to significantly step up their game, and that’s a daunting prospect when you are a player that isn’t used to performing in front of such a significant number of people on a regular basis.
I have absolutely no doubt that it will be a difficult challenge for our new-look squad of players to turn around the mentality of a club and fanbase that has been stuck in a depressing rut for far longer than anyone could care to remember, but ensuring that our awful record of winning games on Wearside becomes a thing of the past has to be one of our top priorities - for all of us.