It will be 186 days since Sunderland last kicked a football in a competitive match, but finally the wait for a start date for next season is now over.
The Premier League, the Championship and Leagues One and Two will all begin on the weekend commencing the 12th of September. Meanwhile, the Premier League will end their season on the 23rd of May 2021, but the Championship, League One and League Two seasons will finish on the weekend commencing the 8th of May 2021.
40 clubs from England’s top four leagues haven’t seen their sides play competitive football since the beginning of March, before the 2019-2020 seasons were ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but fans of all 40 clubs will be biting their nails at the prospect of watching their side play for the first time in over six months.
Issues off the pitch may be reflected in what occurs on the pitch for the Black Cats when the season does kick off - meaning that parts of the Sunderland support may not be relishing the prospect of watching the Lads begin the season in just under 50 days time.
With a start date now confirmed, the players will hopefully be back into training within the next couple of weeks to begin preparations for September 12th start to the season.
It was March the 10th the last time Sunderland played a competitive match - leaving their season with a 2-0 defeat against Bristol Rovers. For some Sunderland fans, this may seem like a long time ago; to any football fan, the beginning of March seemed like a lifetime ago, when they were allowed to attend matches.
For clubs, it seems like a certainty that the seasons will begin behind closed doors without fans in the ground, but last week, the UK government announced that the start of October could be the start of fans being allowed back into stadiums.
A debate held during the COVID-19 pandemic was if Sunderland would benefit better without fans in the ground than with. Over recent seasons, we have seen the Black Cats become a formidable side at home, during their time in League One, but with the current discontent between owner and supporters, could the Stadium of Light become a hostile environment to play in when fans return and a sale of the club still undone?
During the past couple of seasons, the EFL have always had a quite congested schedule with clubs regularly playing two games per week, including the different club competitions, including the EFL Trophy, FA Cup and the EFL Cup, but the 2020-2021 fixture schedule will be one of the tightest in history, as the EFL have to fit in around six round of matches in between September and the normal end date of May 8/9th.
In the past few weeks, it has been reported that the EFL Cup round 1 fixture between the EFL clubs could take place on the week before the normal seasons take place for the clubs to get back into the competitive nature of football, but hopefully during the time between now and September 12th, the Black Cats will be able to play lots of pre-season games, so they can get their spark back and achieve promotion in 2021.