An obvious one to start with, Diamond’s name is on the tip of just about every Sunderland fan’s tongue. Loaned to Harrogate last season, Jack instantly impressed in his spell in North Yorkshire playing a crucial and starring role in Town’s promotion to League Two.
A former futsal player, Diamond possesses all of the attributes you’d assume a successful player of that ilk would have, with good agility, great awareness and quick feet.
In his time at Harrogate, Diamond not only nurtured his footballing ability but also changed his physical appearance too, bulking up considerably in his time away. As it stands it looks like Diamond is more than ready to make his League One debut and this season should be that. With all his ability, Diamond has the world at his feet but with plenty of competition out wide he’ll have to show patience as well as ruthlessness in order to take his chance to cement a place in the first team.
The addition of O’Brien to the squad indicates another potential player to get in ahead of, but with Parkinson looking likely to continue with last seasons approach of using wing backs, Diamond’s initial opportunities may come with some added defensive responsibility.
Elliot is a known quantity to Sunderland fans so requires no further explanation as to his level of ability and quality.
With a host of England youth caps to his name and a brilliant spell at Grimsby not too long ago, quality has never been in question with the two-footed Embleton. What has drawn question marks, as well as hinder his development, is Embleton’s fitness.
Unlucky with injuries, it seems every time Embleton is ready to make his mark or cement his place, another niggle or strain takes hold - more often than not resulting in extended periods on the touchline.
Embleton though is a brilliantly gifted player and should he remain fit during pre-season and the opening exchanges of the cup and league campaigns, Embleton could find himself becoming a key figure in the middle for Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland side, adding a new dimension to a somewhat one-dimensional midfield.
With rumours on the transfer front fairly quiet, and Luke O’Nien seemingly confined permanently to right wing back, there has never been a better opportunity for Embleton to make himself a permanent fixture in the first team.
Love him or loathe him, this season for Wyke is key.
Injury and, quite frankly, poor form have dogged his time at the Stadium of Light for a man who arrived too much fanfare and anticipation. Unfortunately, Wyke has never quite lived up to his billing in red and white, amassing a mere 9 goals in over 50 appearances for the lads, making a good season this time around absolutely paramount.
This year has seen Wyke maintain his fitness better than previous seasons, and has a manager who knows him and his style as well as anyone, making any excuses in regard to future performance, in theory, null and void. What makes this season so important for both Wyke and Sunderland is the fact Wyke is entering the last 12 months of his contract.
With few, if any, of our strikers scoring it’s high time Wyke finds another level to his game and finds goals more consistently. Not only that but Wyke has to look to put himself about more this season, compared to periods last season where he looked rather tame and timid, especially in comparison to visiting strikers.
All is not lost at the Stadium of Light for Charlie Wyke, but this season may well prove his last chance to prove his worth.
Another player who has failed to live up to expectation since their arrival, Grigg simply has to start finding goals from somewhere. Last season, Grigg looked almost completely bereft of confidence, missing simple chances on several occasions throughout the campaign.
Though Grigg may have some case to say Sunderland haven’t always played to his preferred style of football, he has now spent enough time in and around the squad whereby that reasoning will start to wear thin with many if it already hasn’t.
Accusations over a lack of effort have been made by many a Sunderland fan, so this season should provide an opportunity for Grigg to prove his critics wrong. An extended break may well have done him the world of good, offering him time away to reset himself, refocus and approach the season on a clean slate.
This has been further embodied by his clear change in physique, with Grigg arriving for pre-season looking shy of a few pounds and looking far more energetic in his outings so far.
What is to be of Grigg remains to be seen and whilst not under the contractual pressure of other players at the club - he has to take his opportunities and endear himself to Sunderland fans, especially his critics.
What could serve Will well is starting the season in empty or sparsely populated stadiums, offering him a temporary release of pressure as he looks to continue to build his confidence.
Despite featuring heavily last season, the jury is still firmly out on Hume.
A roaming left-back, Denver is more than adept with the ball at his feet. A skilled dribbler and not afraid to get forward at his opposite number, he carries on the now typical notion of an attacking full-back.
Whilst he’s happy to get forward question marks have arisen about the quality of his final product which many see as needing marked improvement.
Defensively, Hume has been slightly more suspect, none more so than under the high ball making this another area highlighted for improvement. His occasional naivety in relation to his defensive duties hasn’t gone unnoticed and Sunderland fans will be expecting some more mature performances for a player now well versed in League One.
If he can spend this season getting slightly more streetwise whilst improving the quality of his final ball, the potential for him to be one of the better left-backs in the league is clear for all to see, whilst stagnating may see Denver have a fight for his place on his hands before too long.
A very recent addition to the list, a raw yet talented 18-year-old Neil has certainly caught the eye over pre-season so far. Looking very comfortable in possession and very technically gifted, it’s easy to see why he’s is regarded as one of the academy’s finer prospects.
Whilst he’s not been exposed to much first-team football, it will be a crucial season for Neil in terms of his development but also his Sunderland future.
With clubs such as Leeds and Wolves looking to secure his signature, a good season could well have a few more clubs chasing after him. In recent press interviews Neil has expressed both his desire to play for Sunderland and in particular first-team football, doing his case no harm in recent outings.
It’ll be interesting to see how Neil is managed and developed over the coming season with Sunderland having plenty of choice in the middle of the park, but if his performances continue as they have in pre-season, a start may not be too far away.