Malc Dugdale says...
Despite the present situation with a Covid-suspended season and no sign of when that will end, I am quite hopeful for the football side of SAFC in 2021.
The spell of no games will create a major log jam for the rest of the season, but as long as the coach can get out of the coronavirus enforced period with a healthy squad with little or no long term issues with lung capacity and minimal challenges from what is already known as “long COVID”, we are showing the early signs of a good shape and footballing intent emerging.
The coach will need to add to the ranks in the window about to open, and while the coffers are likely not yet overflowing, there should be a few players out there looking for a loan spell at a promising club who we can bring in to step up our capabilities in key areas by a notch or two.
We definitely need to add to the midfield and attacking ranks, and if we are able to do that while also shedding some of the dead wood that Johnson will be seeing as not aligned to his plans and tactics, I think we are a strong shout for a playoff berth and not too much of a long shot for a second place.
In terms of non-Sunderland, I continue to think the league is wide open, and any team who can put together a string of 15-20 games at better than two PPG post-January is highly likely to take one of the top two spots.
Portsmouth may be top now but if we win both our games in hand we are a point off them, and inside this month they have dropped points against Fleetwood and lost away to Blackpool, though granted they have beat Posh, Ipswich and Hull.
While our supposed new foes from the south coast may well continue to push for the top, they have a knack of bottling it for a spell as the business end of the season approaches.
But then so have Ipswich, Lincoln, Doncaster and Peterborough in recent seasons, and we have hardly excelled in that period either. If I had to put a bet on as the footy resumes I would put a few quid on Posh finding a couple of decent loanees and making the play-offs, and I would expect Hull to pick up after this lull in form and give an immediate return to the next level a proper go.
I do feel though that there is enough inconsistency outside the SAFC camp to suggest we can and should be well in the mix with Johnson’s way bedding in, and with our new owners wanting to push on and up without delay.
For Sunderland, I reckon that we’ll win the EFL Trophy at Wembley, but there’ll be no Sunderland fans in the stadium to watch it.
We’ve waited since 1973 for a Wembley win and have lost in each of our last seven games there - wouldn’t it be just the most Sunderland thing ever if we eventually get that win, and there’ll be none of us there to see it?
I actually predicted this at the start of the season... and I’ve never wanted to be more right about something. I mean, it’ll be a shame, but still... funny.
My other prediction... jeez....
That Arsenal will be relegated on the final day of the Premier League season.
I think this is more “what I want to see happen” as opposed to “will this actually happen”, but right now it remains a possibility, so I’ll throw my weight behind it.
They’ve actually improved in their last few games, but still.
I don’t particularly hate Arsenal, but I think that a big club needs to be relegated eventually for the Premier League elite to open up a bit - it’ll show none of them are untouchable. And of course, it’ll be great watching the AFTV meltdowns.
Sean Brown says...
I’m trying not to expect too much from us in the league this season as a great deal appears to be changing at the club, and I’m not sure I’m willing to sacrifice any more of my sanity than is absolutely necessary by yearning for instant remedy and gratification.
The current situation with COVID-19 and the problems it can cause continues to threaten a complete shut down of the leagues, so with that and the aforementioned changes to the structure of the club in mind I’ll be happy to see us simply playing better football (when we can play), taking a far more intelligent approach to transfer dealings/contracts/development/staff recruitment.
A season ending that results in a greater understanding of our philosophy moving forward as a club and a real sense of direction is what I’d love to predict for 2021, but there are a great deal of variables and enormous challenges to overcome in such a relatively short period of time, so I won’t predict anything at all.
I’ll simply hope against all hope that somehow all the challenges are met well, the fanbase is shown that the club is finally heading in the right direction and that those who are incoming are the sort of people we want to help us move forward and away from the stagnation and incompetence present for so long at Sunderland AFC.
General football predictions for sides unrelated to Sunderland? Well I can’t say I care enough to offer any. I wish them (well most of them) all the best for the challenges they all face. Actually... wait.
I do predict they’ll fail to work together efficiently and effectively enough for the betterment of football, and it’s fans in England due to their own agendas and selfishness and greed impeding their better collective judgement.
Happy New Year.
Rich Speight says...
For Sunderland: that January will set the course for the whole year.
I think that with the new ownership and new footballing structure - if we actually get to play again this season - we’re going to make the playoffs at the very least.
A lot can change after Christmas, and we’ve got a lot going for us in terms of players coming back from injury, a talented manager and a new owner who will want to make his mark by investing in the squad.
Louis-Dreyfus has not come here to watch League One football for the next couple of years, so I expect a sense of urgency and for Johnson to be backed with enough money to change the course of our season.
Generally: I predict the financial woes of many EFL clubs will only worsen, despite the bailout package agreed before Christmas and I will be amazed if we get to May without at least one more club going to the wall due to the lack of fans in grounds.
In the Premier League, I’m looking forward to one of the most open title races in many a year but I expect that local lad Jordan Henderson will be lifting the trophy once more.
On the international scene, I see no reason why England, with their crop of young, fast, exciting forward players and Henderson’s engine running the show in the middle of the park, can’t go all the way to the final of the Euros and I think we’ll see Wales advancing out of their group to the knock-out stages too.
Scotland might struggle, despite having two of the best full backs around.