Jon McLaughlin was promoted with Burton Albion and Bradford, is a current Scotland international goalkeeper, and was named ‘Player of the Year’ at Heart of Midlothian right before we signed him in 2018. Lee Burge was Coventry’s number one in the four seasons prior to arriving at Sunderland, and would be a starter in most other teams in League One.
Conor McLaughlin is a first-choice Northern Ireland international who came from the Championship after a spell with Millwall. Jordan Willis was Coventry’s captain who turned down a number of Championship clubs to come here. Alim Ozturk is a former Hearts captain. Glen Loovens is well past his best but his record prior to arrival at Sunderland is worthy of recognition - he won trophies in Holland and Scotland, has international experience with the Netherlands, promotion experience, and had previously been captain at Sheffield Wednesday before he came to Sunderland; his experience around the dressing room is clearly vital. Tom Flanagan is a Northern Ireland international with a promotion out of League One on his CV. Jack Baldwin was signed as Peterborough’s captain.
Luke O’Nien was promoted with Wycombe, and we beat recently-promoted Luton to his signature when he arrived last summer. Dylan McGeouch is a Scotland international, and made the Scottish Premiership team of the season just before we signed him. George Dobson is an ex-Walsall captain at the tender age of 21, and came through the academy sides of Arsenal and West Ham, as well as playing for a spell in the Eredivisie. Max Power has been promoted twice from League One with Wigan Athletic. Grant Leadbitter has years of Premier League experience, is a genuine Middlesbrough legend and was their captain in the Championship when we signed him.
Aiden McGeady has nearly 100 international caps with the Republic of Ireland, a tonne of Champions League experience and won numerous honours when a Celtic player. Chris Maguire spent the best years of his career in the Championship with Sheffield Wednesday, and just a few years ago scored 17 goals from midfield when at Oxford in League One. Duncan Watmore - prior to his knee injury - was a regular for Gareth Southgate’s England U21 side and was a regular starter for us in the Premier League. Elliot Embleton is an England U20 international who impressed mightily with Grimsby Town last season in his first season as a first-team footballer. Benji Kimpioka is a Sweden U21 international.
Charlie Wyke had an almost 1 in 2 record prior to signing for Sunderland in his spells with Carlisle and Bradford, and at Valley Parade he got 16 goals in his final season. Marc McNulty had an almost 1 in 2 record with Hibernian last season, and had scored freely prior to that with Coventry in League Two. Will Grigg is a Northern Ireland international who scored almost 60 goals in two seasons playing for Wigan in League One.
AND - we’ll sign more players before the transfer window is over, likely adding depth in the full back positions and some raw pace in wide areas.
Sunderland’s squad is better equipped to be successful at this level than any other League One side - there are no excuses really regarding the quality of the players at our disposal, and the depth we have in almost every position.
We were barely competitive against Oxford on Saturday, yet compare our situation to theirs. Widely tipped for a relegation struggle, Karl Robinson’s flung-together side consist mainly of players left over from last season and players they signed days before our game. Their two best players left for Cardiff this summer, and their only striker is a 34-year old Jamie Mackie with just 13 goals to his name across the last three seasons.
Games are not won and lost on a piece of paper, but Sunderland’s pool of players is surely the envy of a division full of teams who could only dream of having a someone like Max Power - who, despite being fit, didn’t make our 18-man squad at the weekend - in their side.
The pressure that is on Sunderland to succeed this season is huge, but completely understandable. If you left the Stadium of Light on Saturday feeling underwhelmed then I believe you were completely right to do so - you only have to look at the tools we have at our disposal to see why there’s so much expectation placed at Jack Ross’s door.