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OPINION: Roker Report Writers’ Predictions 18/19 - Guessing at how Sunderland’s season will go

Hey, want to see a bunch of writers who think they know something about Sunderland AFC get a bunch of predictions hopelessly wrong? Well, join the party as we play “what’s going to happen this season”!

Sunderland v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Where will Sunderland finish?

Walshie: “We’ll walk it!”

We are going to thoroughly wallop every single absolute jobbing team in this division. We’re going to ruffle the hair of their supporters and say “aww, haven’t you done well to get this far, I really hope you stay up” when we don’t mean a single word of it.

We’re going to bowl about all of these provincial towns and they are all going to line-up to catch a glimpse of the Adonises draped in red and white stripe as Jack Ross’ re-incarnation of Brazil 1970 steamroll the so-called “opposition”.

Anything less than this and, honestly, what’s the point?

Gav: “Winning the league has to be our aim!”

Harking back to something that Connor said on this week’s Roker Rapport Podcast, I also think anything less than winning the league would be slightly disappointing.

Obviously I’d love us to go up regardless, and winning at Wembley in the play-offs would be sweet, but I think that there should be more than enough about us to win this division.

Rory: “We’ll have it sewn up by March!”

U wot m8? Why is this even a question?

We’re obviously going to bulldoze the league, patronise every team in this division and play sexy football doing it. We’ll have the league sewn up by March.

Hi to all the Newcastle fans tweeting screenshots of this after our 14th place finish.

Connor: “Anything but promotion is a massive failure”

The aim should be to win the thing, and that is what I am expecting. We’ll be League Champions come about March time and the Checkatrade Trophy in the cabinet.

Basically, though, anything but promotion is a massive failure.

Dan: “We’re going to p*ss it!”

Quick warning from the outset - this is the most positive I’ve been about our club in a long, long time so my overly confident predictions will reflect that.

With that in mind, we’re going to absolutely p*ss this league. We’ll finish second but only because we don’t have enough goal-scorers in the team and because we basically have a brand new squad and management team that needs time to gel.

Gav Hawkton: “1st place - let’s aim high!”

I think we’ll end up in first place. I expect a few bumps initially, but once Jack Ross has a settled side that is playing positive football I can see us building momentum and finishing the season strongly.

It’s a new era at Sunderland, so let’s all get ridiculously carried away and aim high.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

How do you think Jack Ross will get on? Will he become the second manager to last a full season in the past eight years?

Walshie: “Of course he will!”

Sorry, you mean, the greatest manager to ever grace the shores of north east England?

Is he going to last the season?

Not only is he going to last the season, he’s going to put himself on at our championship-winning season finale at Southend, bag a hat-trick, win the 2019 series of Love Island and end the conflict in Syria.

Gav: “We’ll win the league with Jack Ross in charge!”

I think so, yes.

Stewart Donald’s record with managers at Eastleigh suggests he’s got a trigger finger just like Ellis Short did, but since I believe we’ll win the division there can be no doubting - in my eyes - that Jack Ross will still be the manager of Sunderland by the time May rolls around.

Rory: “I think he’ll do pretty well!”

Going off my first prediction, I think he’s going to do pretty well! Jack Ross has a nice confidence about him, coming into Sunderland.

It’s reminds of a war movie where one of the soldiers is overly arrogant about the territory he’s heading in to and he ends up getting blown to bits five minutes later. This is the new Sunderland, though, and we don’t destroy confident men any more. Hopefully.

Connor: “I am not even tolerating the thought of Jack Ross being sacked...”

Ross and the Don seem to get along quite well, and we did superbly to bring him to the club in the first place. So why would they sack him?

If we get off to a really bad start the pressure will be on him, though, and our chairman actually is quite happy to sack his manager if needs be - just look at his record at Eastleigh.

Still, I expect us to keep Ross unless we are in danger of another relegation... Gulp.

Dan: “He’ll deliver promotion!”

He’s going to be well liked by the majority of fans by Christmas for his no-nonsense approach and attacking football - and then absolutely loved by fans by the end of the season for delivering promotion. He’ll still be here next season.

Gav Hawkton: “Yes - he’s got a good relationship with the owner!”

No doubt. Jack Ross looks very capable as a manager and has an aura of confidence about him despite the scale of the rebuild this summer.

He has already formed a good working relationship with Stewart Donald and a good season ahead I can’t see any reasons why Jack Ross won’t be Sunderland manager for the next few years.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Who is going to be the best signing?

Walshie: “Glenn Loovens!”

My word, he is simply magnificent. That’s what a man is supposed to look like. Look at those arms, like two boughs of sturdy English oak. If you had those wrapped around you, you would feel so safe. Look at that smile, those flowing auburn locks, catching ever-so delicately in the wind, melting the hearts of every man, woman and child on Wearside. He is our protector, he is everything we hold dear.

He is going to be our rock, our man mountain, the Dutch windmill that will not allow any weakling League One joker to ride past. Thanks to Big Glenn Loovens marshalling the backline we’re going to give everyone in this sorry division an absolute clogging (GEDDIT, IT’S BECAUSE HE’S FROM HOLLAND HAHAHAHA).

Gav: “Dylan McGeouch!”

He probably won’t win our player of the season award, and I doubt he’ll score many goals, but every good team needs an anchorman at the base of their midfield - and Dylan McGeouch is going to be that man for Sunderland.

Having a central midfielder that can put their foot on the ball and dictate games from deep is what we’ve been lacking for years now, and when we’re playing inferior opposition at home that are sat with eleven men behind the ball, we need players that can unlock tight defences.

McGeouch’s sheer presence will help us to win games on a regular basis, I’m sure of it.

Rory: “Jon McLaughlin!”

Jon McLaughlin looks like a proper goalkeeper, which is nice after last season. Along with Dylan McGeouch, he’s coming in off the back of a good season in Scotland and both men should help address the problems we had in two important areas last season.

McLaughlin is also taking over the role previously held by John O’Shea, in that he looks like he could be the dad of a lot of the players. You always need one of them.

Connor: “Charlie Wyke!”

He’s a class striker at this level and he will score close to 30 goals on our route towards promotion. I just have the feeling that the club have hit a home run here in their search for a capable forward.

Dan: “Dylan McGeouch!”

I think this is going to be a close one to call between McGeouch, O’Nein, McLaughlin, Wyke, and Baldwin. God we’ve made a lot of good signings. I’m going for McGeouch because he’s impressed me in pre-season simply by how much he demands to be on the ball. Refreshing to see that in a Sunderland central midfielder.

Gav Hawkton: “Glenn Loovens!”

Glenn Loovens is a signing that went under the radar a bit but for me could be the key signing. Highly spoken of at previous clubs, he looks a natural leader for the team and will be an important voice on and off the pitch for us down in League One.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Which player will emerge as our star player?

Walshie: “Lee Cattermole!”

I see you, I see you all writing off the Rolls-Royce footballer that is Lee Barry Cattermole. You really have no idea, do you? We’ve heard it so many times before. “He’s the rotten core”, “his legs have gone”, “he doesn’t care anymore” blah blah blah. You will all be chomping those words down your ungrateful necks when our fearless leader (YES I KNOW GEORGE HONEYMAN IS CAPTAIN NOW) is hoisting the title aloft on the Roots Hall turf.

He has proved many, many times that he can rise from the ashes to become the driving force of this team once again. Look at you all, writing him off... shameful behaviour. Oh, and he’s got a contract until 2021 so he ain’t going anywhere, buddy boy!

Gav: “Lynden Gooch!”

Having sat out for much of the last three seasons as a peripheral figure in Sunderland’s squad, it must be immensely frustrating for Lynden Gooch having witnessed the amount of rubbish that have been given repeated chances ahead of him in the first team.

Now, finally, his time has come. If he stays fit he’ll play every single week in League One, and rightly so. He’s got the work-rate, determination and athleticism to be a real force in League One and I think he can really establish himself at this club if he continues to knuckle down. I think he’ll get us at least ten goals, assist just as many and also win us a fair few penalties.

We’ve already seen in pre-season that when you get the ball to his feet he can turn defenders inside out, and it’s that trickery we’ll need to see every week if we are going to win games and ultimately achieve promotion out of this division.

Rory: “Lynden Gooch!”

League One will give the young players a big chance to shine. Lynden Gooch showed glimpses last season but injury often derailed him. If he can carry his pre-season form into the new campaign, his super-sized thighs could punish many a defence.

Connor: “Donald Love!”

He was okay last season in the Championship and his performances in the Checkatrade Trophy last season were actually pretty good. Therefore, I think he could surprise a few and emerge as a top quality full back.

Dan: “Adam Matthews!”

I’m going to go left-field here and say Adam Matthews. He’s gone unnoticed since he signed for us a few years ago but he’s really got the potential to be the best full-back in the league. And I think he’ll become exactly that this season.

Gav Hawkton: “Lynden Gooch!”

For me Gooch looks a very exciting prospect at this level and has already showed signs in an impressive pre-season. His pace and ability to run at defenders should create havoc down in League One and playing regularly I look forward to him getting better and better as the season goes on.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Who’s going to be absolutely rubbish?

Walshie: “Every single jobbing team that dares to face Sunderland AFC!”

This season is going to be incredibly fun and no-one is going to tell me otherwise. So, yeah, we’re going to leather everyone and there’s going to be some hilariously rubbish opponents to laugh at along the way.

Gav: “Donald Love!”

There’s something very lovable about Donald Love, and I do like him, but if Reece James can stay fit I don’t see Love playing very much. He’s been less than inspiring in pre-season - I’m still having nightmares about his back-pass at Hartlepool - and I just don’t feel very confident with him in the team.

My prediction is that he’ll be allowed to leave the club in January!

Rory: “Everyone we face!”

Any player who comes up against Jack Ross’ red and white wizards because we’re going to burn this joke of a division to the ground.

Connor: “I don’t want to pick one...”

Ah... I never like to pick a rubbish player. They might read it and I don’t want to damage their confidence. But... if I had to pick, it would be Lee Barry Cattermole.

Dan: “Alim Ozturk!”

I’m concerned about Ozturk because his career history shows he’ll either be mint or minging. I’m hoping for the former but fearful for the latter.

Gav Hawkton: “Lee Cattermole!”

Lee Cattermole if he is anywhere near the first team - fingers crossed he is not.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Which opposing team are going to give us our “you’re in League One, mate” moment?

Walshie: “Playing in front of ten people at home to Sheffield Wednesday...”

Have you seen how many tickets we’ve sold for that game? We’ve only opened one stand. Opening one stand is very, very League One behaviour. It’s going to be the kind of game you can hear the players shouting at each other, and where if someone opens a bag of crisps you expect them to offer them out to the group.

It’s set to be our lowest attendance ever at the Stadium of Light, and if that doesn’t highlight how far we’ve fallen then I don’t know what will.

Gav: “Wycombe Wanderers!”

It’s absolutely nailed on that we’re going to get rag-dolled all over the shop by Adebayo Akinfenwa, the consequence of which will be fans of other clubs from far and wide ripping the p*ss out of us on social media.

Rory: “Accrington Stanley!”

A delightfully cold pre-Christmas trip to Accrington Stanley - a game we will probably lose and will then subsequently have to endure loads of memes from betting companies ripping the p*ss out of us.

Connor: “Fleetwood Town!”

Joey Barton is their manager, and they play us at the SOL early doors. It seems like a banker that they will come and ruffle some feathers and be the only side to beat us at home this season.

I can see me now, sat in the North West corner fuming as Barton dances up the touchline.

Dan: “Gillingham!”

Gillingham away, which we’ll lose 1-0 because it’s the first game I can go to...

Gav Hawkton: “Stoke City U21s!”

We’ll no doubt be asking ourselves why we bothered to turn up to see the Lads take on Stoke City U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy, a tournament most people will say doesn’t really matter but, deep down, we all secretly want Sunderland to win.

Accrington Stanley v Fulham - FA Cup 4th Round
The Accrington Stanley mascot Winstan
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Who’s getting promoted from League One?

Walshie: “Sunderland, Plymouth & Barnsley!”

Do you think I have even the faintest idea what ANY of these teams in this godforsaken division are like? Don’t pretend you do either because you don’t. My only real exposure to League One is watching Goal Rush on a Sunday morning as the relaxing, calm persona of Chris Iwelumo lovingly guides me through a hangover.

It’s going to be us and, I dunno, are Wigan in this division? When did Sheffield United get promoted? Erm, let’s say Plymouth Argyle and Barnsley - it’s a good a guess as any.

Gav: “Sunderland, Plymouth & Portsmouth!”

As I’ve already stated, I think we’ll win the league.

Aside from that, though, there’s no real stand-out in there that I think will run us close. Shrewsbury and Charlton were unlucky not to be promoted but neither team are as strong now as they were at the end of last season, and that’ll have a knock on.

Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth both just missed out on a place in the play-offs and I think that, with big fanbases of their own behind them, they’ll do well.

Rory: “Sunderland, Bradford & Accrington Stanley!”

Us and a couple of jobbers.

I’m still not really sure which other clubs play in this absolute wasteland of a league to be honest.... Bradford seem to always do reasonably well but never go up, like they’re permanently marooned in fifth place. They’ve made an interesting an appointment in Michael Collins, who at just 32 may give them to fresh ideas to finally push them into the Championship. I’ll say Accrington Stanley as well because they’re powered by Big Macs.

Connor: “Sunderland, Charlton & Rochdale!”

There seems to be no obvious candidates for promotion after ourselves, so it is quite difficult to make promotion picks. Bradford are always good, Pompey are a big club, Burton and Barnsley have just been relegated, and Charlton seem like a candidate. I’m siding with Sunderland, Charlton and Rochdale... only because my mate is a Rochdale fan.

Dan: “Sunderland, Barnsley & Luton!”

We are, and so are Barnsley who’ll win the league. Luton will win play-offs.

Gav Hawkton: “Sunderland, Barnsley & Scunthorpe!”

I think that Sunderland and Barnsley will bounce straight back up. We’ll be joined by Scunthorpe United, who will gain promotion via a win in the play-off final.

Exeter City v Scunthorpe United - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

After a season which provided moment after moment of absolute banter, what will be the most banterous moment from the 2018/19 campaign?

Walshie: “Checkatrade Trophy bantz!”

Oh ambassador, with this 2017/18 banter you really are spoiling us. God, what I would give for another season of Jason Steele looking incredibly confused whenever a football moved in his direction, or Darron Gibson crashing weddings and cars... or just Lee Camp in general.

Have we reached a level of tinpot-ness that we turn up to an away game having forgotten to bring our kit and have to wear the home side’s training kit? Or maybe getting stuck in a traffic jam so we have to change in a pub car park? Lest, we forget that the bloke who used to be Samson The Cat is now one of our directors.

I expect an incredible amount of banter will derive from supporters tweeting Stewart Donald asking whether they can have a refund because their chicken balti pie wasn’t warm enough, or if he will help them tie their own shoelaces.

However, the prime slab of absolute of banter will come in the form of Sunderland reaching the Checkatrade Trophy final, taking 40,000 fans and getting subsequently bodied by West Brom U21s.

Gav: “Jack Rodwell will prove doubters wrong!”

Jack Rodwell will be offered a contract at Everton following a successful trial and, after a career resurgence, he will play once again for England before the season ends.

Rory: “New seats horror!”

All of the new seats collapsing during the first game of the season after being poorly installed. Cue lawsuits due to many a broken coccyx and the dramatic irony of a fan suing himself, as he fitted his own seat.

Connor: “King Kone...”

Lamine Kone will return to Sunderland in January following the early cancellation of his loan, becoming our on-pitch leader before guiding us to a record-setting promotion.

Dan: “Major injury crisis!”

We’re going to have a monumental injury crisis at some point because... Sunderland. So we’re going to end up with a centre-midfield pair of Flanagan and Love away to some absolute jobbers (and we’ll still win).

Gav Hawkton: “Ross the Boss! ”

An injury crisis forces Jack Ross out of retirement, dusting off his boots to become player manager - quickly becoming a club legend both on and off the pitch.

Getty Images

When and how will Newcastle United supporters royally throw their toys out of the pram?

Walshie: “The moment we dump them out of the Checkatrade Trophy!”

We all know that this game will 1000% happen this season. Sunderland will 1000% play Newcastle U21s in the Checkatrade Trophy. The Evening Chronicle will big it as up Newcastle’s opportunity to avenge the six-in-a-row that their supporters are DEFINITELY not bothered about.

They’ll crow for days that even their reserves would wallop us. They’ll come down in their smelly droves, sing songs about Adam Johnson and then probably rip out a few of our lovely new seats as they see their boys significantly bodied once again. They will then claim they weren’t bothered in the first place but send a petition to Parliament to get the result overturned.

Meanwhile, King Rafa will have blown their entire budget on another former Sunderland player like, I dunno, Bryan Oviedo. #IfRafaGoesWeGo

Gav: “The day after deadline day!”

A Newcastle-supporting mate of mine boldly predicted a few weeks ago that Newcastle would break their transfer record during this window. That, of course, is never going to happen and I can’t wait for the meltdown when they sign absolute nobody of note.

Rory: “Less than a month into the season!”

4th of September, when Parliament returns from its summer recess and the government don’t immediately shift their focus to Newcastle United. Apparently it isn’t the governments job to make sure Mike Ashley buys a football club a brand new striker!

Who knew?!

Connor: “They already have...”

Have they not already? Errrr. I suppose they will kick off about anything, to be honest.

But if I had to pick a time, I say after their first five games as they have a horrible start to the season. Rafa walks and they replace him with Joe Kinnear.

Dan: “Mass walk-out when Rafa leaves!”

Even more so than that cringey parliament petition? Not possible. They’ll probably arrange a mass walkout when Rafa finally leaves. Can’t wait for Rafa to leave, me.

Gav Hawkton: “Mid-way through the season!”

Probably mid-way during the season when Benitez walks after a disastrous start and is replace by the best coach in the Premier League - John Carver.

Cue more bedsheets and banners outside Sports Direct.