86 days stand between Sunderland’s last competitive match in League One and the beginning to the new campaign, but finally football will return in just over two weeks.
For some fans, the coronavirus period may have been tough without any football at the Stadium of Light, with the supporters being advised to support FC Cologne in the German Bundesliga, and having to watch on as the Premier League and Championship all were able to conclude their seasons. But, watching both of those leagues didn’t bring out the same enthusiasm as watching Sunderland does - now, all of that will change.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the Black Cats would face Gateshead in their first pre-season friendly on Saturday, but the fixture schedule has now been released.
️ ️— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) August 21, 2020
What game are you looking forward to the most... ✋⁉️ pic.twitter.com/XBxtlQPct1
Sunderland will begin their third successive League One campaign with a home match against Bristol Rovers at the Stadium of Light. The Black Cats have been handed with one of the hardest starts to the season, as they face last season’s play-off finalists, Oxford United and Charlton Athletic away from home in the first four games, with both of these being sandwiched in between a home game against Peterborough United.
With the Black Cats eyeing up promotion at the third attempt, they will need to get off to a brilliant start and set the bar high for the rest of the season. These matches against promotion hopefuls will help the Black Cats to test themselves at the start of the season.
Looking at the fixture schedule, it looks like it is going to be a season like no other, with there being a huge fixture congestion in October and December, with those months both containing seven League One matches.
All three of the Sunderland’s first League One matches will be played behind closed doors, with Sunderland’s away trip to Charlton Athletic being the first chance the Black Cats get to play in front of a crowd. Meanwhile, the home game against Blackpool on the 10th of October could be the first time Sunderland fans get to be back into the Stadium of Light since the coronavirus lockdown.
It could be argued that Sunderland have the easiest end to the season out of all of the teams that will be wanting to contest the Black Cats for an automatic promotion spot. Sunderland’s final match of the season is a home game against Northampton Town, with their final away game being the Black Cats’ longest trip of the season to Plymouth Argyle.
Despite the League One fixtures being released today, the schedule for the EFL Trophy was also announced by the EFL. Sunderland’s first game will be up against Aston Villa’s under-21’s at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday 8th September, in between the Black Cats’ first competitive game back with a Carabao Cup tie against Hull, and their first League One match against Bristol Rovers. October’s fixture list becomes even more congested, as Phil Parkinson’s side takes on Carlisle at the Stadium of Light, before a trip to Fleetwood on Tuesday 10th November in their final group game.
Fans of all League One and Two clubs all now have competitive football fixtures to look forward to, but for Sunderland, they will be wanting to get back onto the pitch and hopefully gain automatic promotion at the third attempt.