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Roker Report’s Writers Predictions 19/20: How do we think Sunderland will do this season? (Pt1)

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Where will we finish? Who will be Player of the Year? Who will prove to be our best signing? And, who is going to be absolutely garbage? Join us as our writers make some wildly speculative remarks in part one of this season’s Sunderland predictions.

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Where will Sunderland finish?

Tom Walsh says...

One hundred points. One hundred bloody points. How sweet would that be? Opening the nostalgia vault and doing a big fat line of late-90s vibes as we swat every goddamn jobbing team aside in this godforsaken division.

One hundred points, just like Charlie said. One hundred points playing some of the most breathtaking football you are ever likely to see on British soil. Move over Portsmouth, move over Lincoln City, move over “Milton Keynes Dons”, Jack Ross’ gorgeous boys are coming for you and everything you hold dear.

We may have not addressed key issues in the squad, we may have lost our inspirational leader (God speed, Lee) but that doesn’t matter when you’re racking a literal tonne of points by the springtime. What a year this will be.

Sunderland v Walsall - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Graham Falk says...

I’ve said we’ll go up automatically, but I’m not sure if that’s because of the copious amounts of Buckfast I’ve consumed since Patrick Bauer scored in the last five seconds against us at Wembley back in May.

Maybe we will do it this year, though.

We’ve bought really well defensively. Conor McLaughlin and Jordan Willis look like top quality players at this level and I think we’ve added good players across the rest of the pitch.

We need goals too - surely one of Grigg, Wyke or McNulty will score enough goals?

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Mark Carrick says...

I am confident we can win this league at the second time of asking.

I was encouraged by Jack Ross' second season win ratio at previous clubs and, with a year's experience behind him, I’m backing him to replicate that form at Sunderland.

The glaring weaknesses in the defence are being rectified. The signings of Conor McLaughlin and Jordan Willis have been positive, as has the change to a back three. Granted, I'm hopeful of a third centre half, but the wing-backs system plays to the strengths of Denver Hume, Luke O'Nien and Lynden Gooch.

Hopefully, the changes in personnel and formation will allow us to secure wins where last season we ended up only drawing.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jake Hannah says...

We’ll put right the wrongs this season and finish top, I have no doubt in this!

The main reason I’m so confident is the level of competition we will be facing compared to last term. Even before a ball was kicked going into the 2018/19 season, Barnsley looked like a very solid team, and while no one really predicted Luton being so good, the overall standard at the top seemed to be high compared to the average League One season.

Another reason is the promise of our young players, in particular Ethan Robson and Elliot Embleton.

These two have proven to be more than capable so far in pre-season and I feel they could flourish when the focus is put more on the bigger names in the squad (McGeady, Grigg, Leadbitter etc.).

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Phil Butler says...

You can’t really say anything other than first can you.

The quality of league one is significantly lower than it was last season, add to that the fact that if we get off to a poor start a change of manager will surely come with plenty of time to win the league.

On top of this our summer business has been more streamlined this year - Willis, McLaughlin and McNulty, as well as the returning Embleton, all offer improvements on last year’s squad.

Sunderland AFC, League One Champions 2019/20 - Easy!

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris Wynn says...

I can see another season finishing in the play-offs.

As much as I want to, I can't convince myself that we'll run away with it.

There is nothing that I've seen to suggest we will have enough firepower combined with an attacking intent tactically to consistently blow teams, and this league, out of the water.

There's some decent competition at the top and this League has a potential for a surprise as we saw with Luton Town last year.

I hope I'm wrong and it's top two, but nothing has convinced me of that yet.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Who will be crowned Player of the Year?

Tom says...

Following the absolutely disgusting decision to dispense with the services of all-time Sunderland legend Lee Cattermole, there is a spot available for someone to step up and be the “absolute boy”.

That void will naturally be filled by Aiden McGeady. At the ripe old age of 46, he will once again roll back the years and make utter mugs of every single jobber that dares to come within four feet of him.

If they do, he’ll merely look down in pity muttering the words “embarrassing gimps” before pinging the ball into the top corner from 40 yards out.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Checkatrade Trophy Final Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Graham says...

If you say anyone else than Jordan Willis then you’re wrong. Jordan Willis is the missing piece of our League One puzzle. A man mountain, with the class of Paolo Maldini, the passing range of Virgil van Djik and the tackling prowess of a young Kevin Ball.

Come May, we’ll see the defensive legends of the game - Carles Puyol, Franz Beckenbauer and John Mensah - queuing round the block to get tickets just to catch a glimpse of the centre-back sensation.

When Willis is in the team we won’t concede a single free-kick, let alone a goal, prompting Jack Ross to allow goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin play rush goalkeeper in an attempt to get on the end of a Chris Maguire cross and “do a Mart Poom”.

Benfica B v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark says...

Last season was a tough call between Jon McLaughlin and Aiden McGeady.

This season I hope we aren't as reliant on both players, but McGeady remains a class act in this division and I wouldn't bet against him winning back-to-back as awards.

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Play-off Final Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jake says...

Due to the fact we are guaranteed a 100-point campaign I’m going for Will Grigg to have the season of his career, firing The Lads to some big wins in the process.

Some would say at least 25 goals for a man who hasn’t been able to hit a barn door in red and white so far is a little optimistic, but a full pre-season under his belt and the time to get over any niggling injuries from last season will hopefully do the Northern Irishman the world of good.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Phil says...

I’m predicting a breakout season for one of Sunderland’s promising youngsters, Elliot Embleton.

After an impressive first taste of senior football on loan at Grimsby in League Two, and coming off the back of a promising preseason - along with the 3-4-2-1 which seems to suit the player - I can see Embleton weighing in with plenty of goals and assists if Sunderland have a successful season.

Although if we are to get promoted then at least one of our strikers is likely to score 20+ goals, I can’t say for certain who this striker will be - Will Grigg could just as easily ‘catch fire’ but if not I do back McNulty to get enough goals to see us home.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris says...

Just as last season saw Jon McLaughlin remind us that goalkeepers that make actual saves do exist, Jordan Willis will remind us how defenders actually defend this year.

It feels like a long time since we had a defender that I had confidence in to lead the back line and I think we've found one.

Also, if we haven't changed tactically from last season there will be a reliance on the back line to keep it tight if we don't put teams to bed with scoring more than one.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Who will be pick of the new signings?

Tom says...

When I saw the flowing locks of Marc McNulty I instantly thought, “that’s what I wanted the last time I went into the barbers”.

It’s a haircut which would befit a free spirit such as the Scotsman, business for the back and sides while willful abandon on top as it falls so delicately across his left eye.

George Dobson, conversely, has the type of haircut which the barber butchered the instructions of “give me a Jack Grealish”. However, follicle issues aside, he’s probably going to give us a drive from midfield we haven’t seen since Max Power decided to get sent off in every game he played last term.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Graham says...

Did you not read my paragraph above? Have you not already fallen in love with the effulgent (thank you, online Thesaurus) former Coventry City youngster?

All other summer signings will trail in the wake of Big Willis as he leads us to our goal of 100 points. He will also score in our game at Coventry (well Birmingham) and cup his ears to the 18 fans situated in their home end, causing a mini riot.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark says...

Jordan Willis.

We needed a strong, quick, athletic defender and this guy seems to tick all the boxes.

If Ross can get the defence right this time round, we stand a great chance of promotion and Willis looks like the signing to make that happen.

Benfica B v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jake says...

Conor McLaughlin.

He seems like the perfect player for the right side of the back three Jack Ross has went for in every pre-season game.

We’ve desperately needed a calm head at the back for a while and he doesn’t really seem to be adventurous enough to leave us in trouble at every possible occasion.

An honourable mention must go to Jordan Willis too, as the relationship between the two will be imperative to building a strong foundation.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Phil says...

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been impressed with pretty much all of our summer business.

Lee Burge is a solid Ruiter-replacement, Conor McLaughlin is an upgrade on Adam Matthews, Marc McNulty is an upgrade on Kaz Sterling and finally going from Flanagan and Baldwin to Jordan Willis is one hell of an upgrade.

Since its a position we were so poor in last year, I’m going for Jordan Willis as our signing of the season, he had Championship interest in the summer and has looked brilliant in the covering role in a back three during pre-season.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris says...

I’ve already hung my hat on Jordan Willis to be the pick of the bunch and end as player of the season, but I also think Conor McLaughlin will impress this year.

If Jack Ross deploys wing backs as we expect, I think the Northern Ireland international could really make the right hand side of that system his own.

Quick mention to George Dobson looking the business in midfield this year if given the license to get up and down the pitch.

Sunderland v Heerenveen Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Who is going to be absolutely garbage?

Tom says...

Since this season is one where Sunderland are going to accumulate 100 points, the real garbage will be every single, pathetic team that crosses our path.

Once again, we will ruffle the hair of so-called challengers like “Portsmouth” and “Ipswich Town” as we wallop them with consummate ease.

While it may be a little premature to start lighting cigars and putting the champagne on ice but when we have a flawless record at Christmas, the league will know it’s beaten.

Good luck every other League One “football” team, you are really, really going to need it.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Graham says...

Will Grigg. He’s never going to catch fire, is he?

I’ve seen three of our four pre-season games and he has the same look I do when I’m forced to watch that bloody Love Island thing.

Please, please, please prove me wrong and pour copious amounts of egg all over my face William, you beautiful, bearded b***ard.

Let me love you for crying out loud.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark says...

I really worry about the three defenders from last season - Flanagan, Baldwin & Ozturk.

But Ozturk, for me, remains my biggest concern.

I've seen a few fans with Big Al in their starting XIs, but I sincerely hope he's not even near the bench this season!

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jake says...

Grant Leadbitter.

I hope we don’t persist with Leadbitter in the same way we did Catts last season.

Leadbitter is a very assured player and will certainly play an important part at times, but he’s simply not mobile enough to play in every single game.

Let’s use him sparingly to avoid a Sunderland lad getting any more stick than he needs to.

South Shields v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Phil says...

Charlie Wyke.

He’s just not going to fit in, and the signing of Marc McNulty - another striker more in Will Grigg’s style - means even if Grigg’s poor form continues, or he gets injured, Wyke is unlikely to start many games.

I predict he’ll be shipped out in January, and replaced by some Premier League loanee.

Sunderland Pre-Season Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris says...

If we get off to a bad start it has the potential to be Jack Ross, which is too disastrous to contemplate... so my prediction is something I don't feel proud to suggest.

I can't fault his attitude, his love for the club, his effort and his character, but I just don't know where George Honeyman fits in this team.

I don't see him as an out and out central midfielder, I don't see him as a winger and I thought he struggled to influence games when playing off a lone striker.

Maybe this season he finds a role he's suited to and steps up because there is a good player, especially at this level, in there.

Quick shout for Grigg to potentially not find form and leave in January.


JOIN US TOMORROW FOR PART TWO OF OUR PREDICTIONS!