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Roker Report’s Writer Predictions 2020/21 (Part 1): Is this the year we finally gain promotion?!

Where will Sunderland finish this season? And, who will be our star player? We ask our writers to consult their crystal balls and predict just some of the outcomes in the first part of our season predictions!

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

Where will Sunderland finish this season?

Phil West says...

At the time of writing, I believe that Sunderland will finish in the playoffs.

I don’t think we have a title-winning squad, and I am not convinced that this is a squad capable of securing that second automatic promotion berth, so short are we in key areas.

It will require a relentless desire and ruthlessness, and every player will have to play their part, but I think that the fear of failure will be a major driving force this season.

At the moment, a top-six position represents the ceiling for the squad as it is right now, although I sincerely hope that they can prove me wrong.

Martin Wanless says...

It’s a tricky one to answer with any certainty whatsoever, as there are so many question marks over everything to do with SAFC at present, from the owners down. Will we be taken over and have a cash injection to help supplement the squad? Will Phil Parkinson have been able to introduce some more subtlety and guile into his formation, and have a Plan B? How will the lack of pre-season have affected us? How will no fans at the SoL affect us?

When all that is said and done, however, we need to get promoted this season – and I know that’s been said for the past two, but with everything else going on (COVID, salary cap etc) it’s more imperative than ever before. So, when bearing that in mind I’m going to go with my heart more than my head perhaps, and say we’ll finish 2nd.

Ian Bendelow says...

Anywhere from 3rd to 15th wouldn’t shock me at all.

If you ask the question are we any better now than last season, the answer would be probably - but only marginally. You can see why Parkinson has bought in who he has; they fit his style of play with him looking to make Sunderland the masters of the bum clenching 1-0.

It’s fair to say there are players already at the club who have shown they could be a different proposition this season, such as Grigg, Scowen, Neil and Diamond (lolz) and we will be all the better for it. But Parkinson must put his faith in them - Will Grigg in particular, because in no sane world does Wyke start above him - if you gave the other 23 teams in this league the option of who they would prefer, you know who they’d take.

Therefore we’ll have more about us this season, but not enough to secure an automatic promotion. I’ll go for 5th and a spot in the playoffs.

Sunderland v Carlisle : Pre-Season Friendly
Charlie Wyke scoring in pre-season against Carlisle United
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says...

Our squad isn’t any better than the one that was falling woefully short before we were spared any further pain. The wave of pre-season optimism will sharply dissipate and Parkinson will be overjoyed, without a win in our opening five games, that the fans who would be screaming for his head are still many months away from being allowed anywhere near a football stadium.

Eventually though, against his better (?) judgement, Donald or his new man Jimmy/Jim/James, will pop their head above the parapet to tell us, Parkinson, around a month or so later than he should have been, has been relieved of his duties. Danny Graham has 5 goals in 35 appearances & is the club’s top scorer. Sunderland finish 12th.

Malcolm Dugdale says...

My head says we are destined for the playoffs again, but my heart hopes that we have enough in the squad now, or at least by the end of the summer window, to squeeze into the top 2.

That said, if all we do to improve our attacking line is re-sign Danny Graham, we will be pinning our hopes for attacking improvements on him and O’Brien, plus a somewhat reinvigorated Grigg, and the managers fave Wyke. I’d love Grigg to succeed but the ongoing lack of pace in attack suggests Wembley will be our route up if we are lucky, which we generally are not.

Danny Graham who will return and score 5 goals in 35 appearances according to Tom Albrighton
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Who will be our star performer this season?

Phil West says...

I cannot look beyond Chris Maguire as the Sunderland player most likely to have the biggest impact this season.

Dan Neil is a player of huge promise and Luke O’Nien will, I’m sure, display his usual positive attitude and willingness to play wherever he is needed, but Maguire remains the key player, in my opinion.

He will score crucial goals, be our figurehead in attack, and I do believe he will relish the opportunity to lead the club back to the Championship at the third time of asking. He is utterly crucial to our chances of promotion, and I expect him to deliver.

Martin Wanless says...

I think Jordan Willis, Luke O’Nien and Chris Maguire will once again have good seasons – Maguire’s consistency post-Christmas was a major plus and he’ll hopefully be able to continue that form for the whole campaign. I think Bailey Wright’s an easy one to pick – if he remains fit he’ll likely be our Player of the Year.

When you look at outsiders, though, who’ll be the surprise package that could make a major impact on the team? I believe that Josh Scowen will, if given a run in the team early on, become one of the first names on the team sheet.

But I’m going to stick my head on the block here with a prediction that will undoubtedly come back to haunt me… out star performer this season will be one William Donald Grigg. Again, this is heart over head once more, however he is the only player we have capable of scoring 15+ goals in a season – so Parkinson has to find out how to get the best out of him.

Ian Bendelow says...

When you think of star performers it’s natural to think of the offensive players but for me everything about this squad screams solidity, with the clear focus on defence.

Any success will be based on clean sheets, so one of the defenders will be the key for us. It would be a straight choice between Wright and Willis, but because we looked so much better with Wright in the side last term, it’s got to be Bailey Wright.

He can organise, he can dominate defenders and you could see in the handful of games he played last year that he knew he had the measure of this league.

Special mention too to Josh Scowen because it will be interesting to see how his style of play helps others, for example Max Power, to be more expressive. If he could get Gooch to cut loose a bit more too that would be most welcome.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League One
Chris Maguire
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says...

Josh Scowen will be a stand out performer for the opening half of the season.

His battling and tenacious performances will see him soon given the captain’s armband as Parkinson regularly and inexplicably changes his midfield partner to no avail. Eventually, as Sunderland’s strikers fail and the defence finds themselves in all sorts of messes, Scowen will drop deeper and deeper, before being sold at a knockdown price to a struggling Reading.

Sunderland fans will be left to enjoy the rest of the season watching George Dobson run around like a spaniel in the park.

Malcolm Dugdale says...

From the old guard I expect Chris Maguire to continue his reign as King, but I’d love to see some challenge for the crown from other attacking players.

I expect good things from the back three, especially Willis and Wrightand it would be great for new or young blood to provide our star performer though. So I’m hoping a Diamond, Embleton, Neil and Hume all grow into real game changers.

Sunderland v Carlisle : Pre-Season Friendly
Josh Scowen
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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