Call me arrogant, call me deluded, call me an idiot - honest, I can take it - but the fact of the matter is that Sunderland SHOULD only be happy with promotion this season.
That is not a knock on the other sides in this league by the way, nor am I trying to suggest that Sunderland have a right to win anything by merely turning up, because they don’t.
The majority of Sunderland supporters, however, expect the club to get promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt. Just take a look at everything about the club currently - it’d be hard to argue that there are three teams in this division that are better equipped to deal with the toil and strife of weekly League One football than Sunderland are.
With 22,000 season tickets sold, a bigger spend and wage budget than any other club at this level and ownership that are both transparent and responsive, Sunderland have the best chance of any of the 24 League One clubs with regards to achieving their goals.
Why such lofty expectations?
This week on the Roker Rapport Podcast we discussed exactly what our expectations heading into the coming season were. Myself, Gav, Simon O’Rourke and Adam all agreed that Sunderland achieving promotion was really the only expectation we had for Jack Ross and his squad in the forthcoming campaign.
And really, that is fine. Fans of other clubs in the division can accuse us of being arrogant, but we have every right to be arrogant. We are a Premier League calibre club playing in League One - why would we expect anything less than an immediate return to the Championship?
No matter how you look at it, Sunderland are favourites to get promoted and it will be a shock if they don’t manage to finish in one of the top two places in the league table.
Sunderland owner Stewart Donald has never publicly admitted that the club are expecting to win the league this season, but behind the scenes you can have no doubt that they’re telling both current and prospective players that we have to gun for promotion.
Smart transfer window
The transfer business that we have conducted so far over the summer looks on paper to be smart and organised. We needed leadership and organisation, and we have managed to acquired that in abundance.
An each signing have brought their own unique trait.
Jon McLaughlin looks like a goalie who, low and behold, can actually catch the ball, command his area and provide us with some calm and leadership from the back.
Jack Baldwin was Peterborough’s captain in League One last season. Glenn Loovens brings experience, and was captain of Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship last season. Alim Ozturk was the captain when he played for Heart of Midlothian.
Reece James has been promoted with Wigan as Champions in two of the last three seasons, and Tom Flanagan is a versatile player who has been promoted four times in his career, and has played a fair bit of Championship football. Dylan McGeouch is our star midfielder and was a real coup for the club when you consider his potential and recent experience. Chris Maguire - another Scotsman - is an experienced creative player with something to prove.
Luke O’Nien is the young, energetic midfielder with ambitions of playing top-flight football. Similarly, Charlie Wyke is a proven scorer at this level despite his age, and is good enough to be playing in the division above. Jerome Sinclair is a low risk signing with bags of potential, and if he can find the net you’d expect that he’ll stand out comfortably.
Things are looking good!
Have the new ownership and recruitment team hit the transfer window out the park?
It still looks like we are short of two or three players in the squad - I think we probably need another central midfielder, a winger and another striker - but ultimately they have got more than enough in before the start of the season, a position we have rarely been in at Sunderland for years. Add into that the fact we have some good players returning from injury over the next couple of months, and it’s easy to see why supporters might be excited about the season ahead and what is to come for us.
Really, the only things left to do - aside from recruiting a couple more bodies that can really add depth and quality to our squad - is to get rid of the high earners who do not want to be here. Players like Bryan Oviedo and Lee Cattermole will probably remain in Jack Ross’ plans until a club comes in for them with a sensible offer, but the AWOL pair of Papy Djilobodji and Didier Ndong are likely to be the next two out of the door - and good riddance to them.
As we said on the Podcast this week, things are looking positive on Wearside for the first time in what feels like a lifetime - bring on Saturday!