Promotion at the first attempt
So it may be the most obvious focus, but if we’re making a list of things the club should be aiming for then promotion needs to be right at the top of it.
People keep talking about being respectful of this league and the teams in it, and needing to realise where we are at. I don’t disagree with that, and I do think that we need to stay grounded, but on the other hand we are a big club and getting our swagger back is what will carry us on to eventual promotion come the end of the season.
A club of our size sticks out like a sore thumb at this level and, despite what anyone says, not getting out of this division at the first attempt would surely be deemed as a huge failure in the eyes of the majority of the Sunderland supporters.
We need to discover our ‘identity’
People have talked for years about Sunderland “needing an identity”. Ellis Short’s attempts - and subsequent failures - to form some sort of cunning plan to stop the rot left us with a bunch of mismatched players bought by a variety of different managers for a variety of different styles.
It was a bit of a mess, really, and it eventually saw us plummet to where we are at now, but talk of Sunderland “needing” an identity was something I never quite agreed with. Sunderland AFC as a club and a city have always had an identify - we just seemed to have misplaced it.
The last minute win over Charlton was symbolic of the very foundations of what Wearside was built on. Guts, togetherness, a never-say-die attitude and working as one unit - we’re a family club at our heart, and with Sunderland those aforementioned qualities flow through our blood stream - they always have and always will.
Whilst promotion at all costs is the most important thing, if we can get out of this league whilst embracing all the things that were great about that win over Charlton, and are great about our club as a whole, it’ll go a long way to repairing the damage Uncle Ellis brought to our wonderful club.
Bringing focus to the Academy
Indeed, the recent success of Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson on the international stage shone a positive light upon Sunderland’s academy and the healthy production line of young talent we have here.
That said, a decent amount of players have left Sunderland in recent years having not been given a fair chance to prove themselves - Martyn Waghorn, John Egan and Conor Hourihane are just three that spring to mind - and that has to change now we are operating under a new regime and at a much lower level than we have done at any point in the last three decades.
Too many have come and gone without having the opportunity to properly showcase their abilities - some have been prevented from going out on loan, instead being left to stagnate in the U23s without a clear path towards development and progression.
It’s time we worked a little harder on ensuring our young players get chances to leave the club on loan, gain experience and come back as more well-rounded footballers.
Lets smash the League One points record
Am I getting carried away? Yes. Could we realistically smash the points total set by Wolves in 2014? Yes - I truly believe we can. We should aim to win the division at a canter.
We have that bite back already. We should go into this league and show everyone who we are. We want to show everyone exactly what Sunderland is about after years of being the butt of the joke.
Peter Reid’s team of 1998/99 did exactly that, albeit in the division above, and its that sort of steely determination that we should be aiming for.
Stewart Donald and Jack Ross want to scrub Sunderland up from top to bottom, changing the outside perspective of this club by showcasing it for exactly what it is. Winning the league in style would most certainly be a good way to start that process.
We need to turn around our home form
Although my fear got the best of me last week and I cried for patience in case Saturday’s game went a little south, I think we all knew just how imperative making sure we got off to a good start to our home campaign was. Now that we’ve done that, it’s time to make the Stadium of Light a place to be feared for every team in League One.
We won only three of our twenty-three home games last term and, at one point, came within a day from failing to win at home for an entire calendar year. The atmosphere in the ground was so apathetic that we had players like Karl Henry talking up how much opposition teams enjoy coming to Wearside. This season, that HAS to stop.
31,000 fans were in attendance at the Stadium of Light for the Charlton game, and every single one of them roared the Lads on to that win.
We’ve responded to this new era, and it seems the players have too. For all the celebrations of the winner are at the forefront of our minds, the roar that went up after Lyle Taylor put the Addicks ahead early doors was the most impressive. It was a roar that said “not today Charlton... not today.”
As fans, and as players, that attitude must remain the entire season.
No one comes here and gets an easy ride anymore.