Phil West says...
On the question of ‘how essential is promotion this season?’, I think you have to look at it from two different angles. The first perspective is financial. Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’s takeover has undoubtedly ensured that the club is now financially secure, and that there is no danger of Armageddon should the worst happen and we fail to get promoted. That would, in all likelihood, have been the case under the ownership of Madrox, so that is extremely reassuring.
The second angle is from the fans’ viewpoint, and specifically the collective morale and optimism of the supporters. Would the prospect of a fourth season at this level be offset by a positive summer transfer window and a strong start to next season?
After we lost the 1998 playoff final, we regrouped, recruited well, and stormed the league during the 1998/1999 season, and I see no reason why we couldn’t mount a similar challenge for 2021/2022. It is extremely important that, if we do fall short this season, there is not a collective groan of ‘New owners, same old story’, because I really do not think that KLD has staked everything on promotion this season.
Had he taken over the club last summer, for example, he would’ve been able to lay the groundwork much earlier. As it was, a mid-season takeover was not ideal, and we’ve undoubtedly been compensating for what happened before he took over.
From a personal point of view, I would be willing to accept, albeit grudgingly, another League One campaign as long as there was clear evidence in the first eight to ten games that the lessons of this season had been learned, and that we were showing the potential of an automatic promotion-winning squad.
Of course, the prospect of crossing swords with the same teams we’ve grown to dislike over the past couple of years is not appealing, but if the long-term future is to be bright, perhaps this is just a phase we will simply have to go through, with one eye on the bigger picture at all times.
Malc Dugdale says...
I think it would be a huge bonus if we go up this season but if not, it isn’t the end of the world as we now have the foundations in place to have a really big crack at the title next year if needs be.
Would I take the promotion if we nick it in some way?
Abso-bloody-lutely I would.
The ability to use the foundations we now have in place to solidify ourselves in the second tier would be more than welcome a year earlier, as that would accelerate our return to the top level. But given the shaping of both the business and football parts of the club already done by KLD and his team, if we have to wait another season then I would accept that.
I do think that a huge amount of pressure will be on Johnson and his team next season though if we are still in league one, as he has had a bit of a hall pass given what he inherited and when. With how far we have come since late last year I do think he and Speakman can do this though.
And yes, it would be oh-so-Sunderland to win the playoff final and the EFL trophy with no fans there, but I’d take that to get out of this god awful league with these refs... let’s just do this lads, and hopefully never see the third tier again in my lifetime.
Jack Gingell says...
I worry that we have heard it all before... “it’ll be better next season.... we just need a good pre-season.... we’ll piss with the squad we have”. All end up being empty words, and leave us hoping in the Play-Offs, instead of leading the pack.
I worry that another season in League One sees us lose any decent players we still have, with a big rebuild job on the cards with contract expirations and loans ending.
That said, if we go up, another overhaul will inevitably be required. A lot of this squad are not cut out for the league above, and it’s difficult to know at this stage how financially competitive we can be.
The ownership, however, provides me with hope regardless of league standing - KLD appears to be committed to a long-term project, and appointments such as Speakman and other key areas show we are looking to build up in the right way.
The novelty of League One dwindled quickly into Jack Ross’ debut season, and I really don’t want us to be here next season. The lack of quality and just general cheating from some of the other sides is not a nice watch, and at least the Championship is an improvement.
The only thing that gnaws at me is whether we could do enough business in the summer, should we be promoted, to compete effectively. Luton and Barnsley have shown stopping power, but they went up with good squads and valuable assets. Charlton, on the other hand, yo-yoed due to a lack of investment and having a weaker squad, overall.
It is a real double-edged sword but to me, we need to get back into the league above as soon as possible and cross each bridge as we come to it.
Gary Engel says...
A few weeks ago I felt that by the time we played Wigan we would be on course for automatic promotion and would be in a far stronger, more settled position than we currently are. With a degree of certainty, I would have expected one or two of our soon-to-be out-of-contract first-teamers to have extended their stays too by now.
However, from the early March promise to now, it looks very much like we’re heading into a typically uncertain summer transfer window at the Stadium of Light with more new faces than a game of Guess Who... just as we’ve come to expect.
It’s a shame too, the majority of our current side, including Jones and Sanderson would be a reasonable foundation for a Championship side.
If we fail to win promotion this year, I think Johnson will be forced to start with virtually a blank canvas as far as restructuring the attack is concerned. In failing to win promotion I’d fear the potential loss of both McGeady and Wyke who have been the major difference in Sunderland’s turnaround since Lee Johnson’s arrival.
Some have likened this season to that of 1998, but failure to win promotion and the loss of big figures is highly unlikely to lead us to storming to promotion next season in the same fashion as Reidy’s side in 1999. I see more similarities with McCarthy’s side, flying during a cup run, only to peter out and finish disappointingly in the play-offs.
Of course, the following season Sunderland turned to youth, much as we’re likely to do going forward. Even with promotion in May, it’s a long way back to the promised land even with KLD’s backing. Because with any investment in youth, requires an investment in time and patience - including from our fans. ‘You’ll can’t win everything with youth’, as Alan Hanson once claimed he meant to say all those years back...