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Have Sunderland really got what it takes to gain promotion this season?

“Phil Parkinson’s side lack the vital cutting edge of previous promotion winning Sunderland sides” argues Mark Wood - do you agree or disagree with his assessment?

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

On Saturday, we saw a team with pace, incision and attacking intent that is able to carve open their opponents at will, and we also saw Sunderland taking another three points to leave them handily placed in the play-off spots after three games. The thing is, the team with all the attributes that supporters want to see was Peterborough.

The lads kept another clean sheet, which was the bedrock for taking the spoils, but in truth Sunderland could have been three down after 20 minutes. Midway in the second half only one team looked the likely winner, and it wasn’t the team in red and white.

For, as good as Sunderland’s start to the season has been, at this moment they are not a team that opponents will look at and fear. There are those that argue that Parkinson’s way is to scrap his way out of League One, and if the results are coming our way then does it matter if it does not look pretty?

By the end of this season, it will be 14 years since Sunderland last had a promotion winning team. The memory of what a promotion winning side looks like will have faded for many fans and be non-existent for some. For a team winning promotion from the third tier, the memory would not even be a twinkle in the eyes of their parents for a large chunk of our fan base.

Exciting players like Marco Gabbiadini have been key to Sunderland’s previous promotions back up through the football league
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

But, going back to the last time we were promoted from the third tier, and every promotion by a Sunderland team ever since, have been teams who could put fear into opponents before a ball was kicked, who did feature players with pace and skill and with their team-mates, dominated matches.

Those of us who remember our last promotion from the old Division Three, recall an attacking team with pace and incision that gave opposition teams sleepless nights. You cannot say that of the present Sunderland side. There are teams in League One that Sunderland will fear before kick off, but how many of our opponents will feel the same?

Of the six Sunderland teams that have gained promotion since 1988, only two could be described as functional rather than spectacular. So you have to question if the present team have got all the tools that it takes to get promotion by the end of the season?

Although undoubtedly tight at the back, we are struggling to dominate and break teams down. On Saturday we did not look a threat.

Scrapping for points might gain a few wins, but there are another 20-odd teams in this league who are capable of that. If you consider the likes of Fleetwood, Doncaster and Portsmouth, then a fair number are probably better at it than we are.

Sunderland have faced four League One opponents so far, include the League Cup tie against Hull. In those games, Phil Parkinson has chosen to lead the attack with Will Grigg for the first two, Danny Graham and Aiden O’Brien for the third and, on Saturday, everybody’s favourite - Charlie Wyke.

In those four games, not one of them has scored.

Oxford United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Danny Graham is just one of the strikers that has failed to get on the scoresheet in the league this season.
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some fans call it a rotation policy, but as we saw last season that Phil Parkinson does not rotate; he will generally pick a player every game until his legs fall off below the knees. The reason so many different strikers have been called upon is because he does not know who should be leading the attack over the season.

He can’t get a tune out of any of them as yet, but is desperately hoping that one of them will strike a chord. On Saturday, the first time the Peterborough keeper was seriously tested was with the late penalty. Peterborough will be entitled to feel mugged.

This is not the substance that promotion winning teams are made of, and I cannot see Sunderland gaining promotion without the strikers starting to hit the net on a regular basis.

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