Two years ago, Jack Ross set himself the challenge to achieve promotion from League One in Sunderland’s first season in the third tier in 30 years. In that season, Sunderland missed out in an agonising fashion - losing 2-1 in the play-off final to Charlton last summer.
That meant that Sunderland would spend a second season in League One, and then one year ago our owners set the club a 100 point target. When the season was halted, there were eight games to go for the Black Cats, and yet, they only had 59 points. Now, the latest League One vote means that - using their PPG ratio - Sunderland finish in their lowest ever position, 8th.
Now, Sunderland will spend a third season in League One, and will now be facing Swindon Town, Crewe Alexandra and Plymouth Argyle, along with the winner of the League Two play-offs. The three teams who will be relegated from the Championship is still unknown with England’s second tier resuming their league in just over a week’s time.
Sunderland will have to spend the summer thinking over where they went wrong in the 2019-2020 season, with there being a number of opportunities where Sunderland could have picked up more points. For example, in their last home game before the season was indefinitely stopped, the Black Cats conceded a late equaliser to Gillingham - therefore dropping two points, which would have found them in the play-off places.
Meanwhile, some Sunderland fans may be left gobsmacked at why only four clubs voted for the season to resume, with those being Sunderland, Ipswich, Peterborough and Tranmere. This was despite the fact that on May 14th, six teams (Peterborough, Oxford, Fleetwood, Portsmouth, Ipswich and Sunderland) issuing a joint statement explaining that they would all like to play on. So, why didn’t Oxford, Fleetwood and Portsmouth vote for the resumption? Some fans may say that it was because they were already in the play-off places, but why issue the statement if they were going to vote for the curtailment?
Although, we now have clarity on what will happen with the 2019-2020 season, we still aren’t sure what will happen with the next campaign.
If it does start, we will most likely see the matches begin behind closed doors, like we will be seeing in the Premier League and what we are seeing in the Bundesliga.
My point would be though, why would the season be able to start if teams have voted for the curtailment of this season because of the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on these teams?
Additionally, a major factor that Sunderland are going to have to deal with in the next few weeks is the players’ contracts. There are 11 Sunderland players whose contracts will run out on June 30th, so Stewart Donald will have to try to get the players to sign contract extensions before that date.
Some of the players whose contracts run out include Chris Maguire, Jon McLaughlin, Alim Ozturk and Luke O’Nien, but it is thought that the former Wycombe Wanderers player already has an extension in his contract if Sunderland want to keep him on for another year.
So, Sunderland fans will have to brace themselves for another season in League One, but this time, will it be ‘third time lucky’?