Matthew Crichton says...
Ross Stewart showed glimpses in the latter stages of last season that he could be trusted to replace Charlie Wyke, but would I be happy to rely on him all season? The answer would be no, purely on the basis that Sunderland need existing forwards and any potential new forwards to contribute with more goals.
Throughout last season it was Wyke or nothing. Will Grigg, Aiden O’Brien and Danny Graham all struggled massively to score and only one Sunderland player broke into double figures all season. That simply cannot happen again.
Stewart showed during excellent displays against Plymouth and Lincoln in the semi-final second leg that he is a handful and can also find the net, but he needs a run where he starts regularly and stays fit.
Having said that, his career total best is 12, so I would not be expecting him to mirror Wyke in scoring 30+ goals, especially not in his first full season in English football. The Scot will score, but he is going to need reinforcements alongside him.
I think it is likely that Sunderland will part ways with Grigg, so you would imagine a forward will be recruited alongside Stewart and O’Brien. Whoever that player is, needs to be someone who Lee Johnson is confident will score goals.
A more dynamic option who can run in behind and offer something different to Stewart would be welcomed with open arms. I would not be confident of achieving promotion with just Stewart and O’Brien as our options up front.
Malc Dugdale says...
I’m quite comfortable with Stewart being the “replacement” for Wyke, but like others in the RR team I think he is less of a direct replacement, and more of a change in the type of player we have up top.
He took a while to get fully fit but by the time we got to the end of the season, there were times when Wyke misfired and I was really hoping Stewart got more of a chance. He has more pace than Wyke and more variation in what he can offer, though I accept he still has a lot to prove to be seen as a suitable swap for the “goal machine” that Wyke was last season (though he was hardly that in the previous ones).
I think Ross will score over 15 goals, but most importantly he will probably create six or seven for several others through his movement, and his use of abilities that Wyke simply never demonstrated, and probably doesn’t have.
What does that mean for our summer business plans? It tells me the gaffer has reviewed what he has available and is going to use what he has where he can and where it fits well, and he will bring in what we need where he sees a gap, or the need for more strength in depth.
If he does that well we will have an efficient but very effective squad, rather than a large collection of okay League One players who look good on paper, but cannot become an effective enough team to go up.
I will add an element of caution here… we cannot simply have Stewart as our lone option. If we rely on him as much as we relied on Wyke, we cannot expect much better of an outcome.
In adding Pritchard to the team, we have a lot of potential pace and attacking intent from an advanced midfielder (potential being key as he hasn’t been playing much recently), but we need several options for each tactic if we are to go up at the 4th time of asking, and especially if we expect to stay up and build back to the top level.
This apparent inbuilt promotion for Stewart can be part of our next push to go up, but rely on him too much, and invest in the team in this window too little, and we will remain a perennial playoff team for more seasons to come.
Michael Dunne says...
I think Ross Stewart is an all round better footballer than Charlie Wyke.
Whilst I don’t think Stewart will score plus 30 goals in a season, I think it’s fair to suggest that Stewart will bring more of our players into the game.
When Sunderland beat Plymouth away from home in may, Stewart showed what he can offer. He was creating space for the wingers, stretching the play and was generally far more mobile than Charlie Wyke ever was.
Too many times last season, we were completely static up top and one dimensional. Stewart’s presence up top offers more than one option and will hopefully lead to more goals coming from our other attacking options.
It is important to add that it is very likely that Charlie Wyke was not going to hit those heights again. Based on his career thus far, last season was an exception rather than the norm. I think the right decision for everyone was for Wyke to move on.
If Stewart is seen as the replacement for Wyke, I would guess that the club will look for a different option. A small, pacey striker would be the natural complement for the big Scot. Lee Johnson likes to tweak his style of play regularly so it would be reasonable to think he will want a range of options to make us as adaptable as possible.
Martin Wanless says...
I think Stewart is potentially a very good player, and I’m keen to see more of him. We’re at a bit of a watershed moment with regard to some of our younger players – Stewart included – in that we need to know whether they’re up to the challenge of playing 46 league games. Neil, Embleton, Diamond, Stewart – hopefully Arby – are all going to be far more prominent this season. It’s a risk, maybe – but it can bring some serious rewards.
From a playing perspective, Stewart looks as if he has a lot of potential. He’s got a decent turn of pace, has a nice touch, is good in the air and can finish.
But that’s been shown in glimpses. He’s started two league games, so it’s a big ask for him to be the first choice striker of a team hoping to get promoted.
As well as being unproven, there are also fitness issues around Stewart – he had a long spell out when he joined and he missed out of the final league game with a similar injury.
Those two factors would lead me to err on the side of caution – I think we need to bring in another striker with a different style of play, who could play alongside Stewart on occasion and also play up front by himself. I’d be happy if Stewart starts the season in the first team, but we need competition and support for him, too.
Joseph Tulip says...
There’s still time between now and the start of the season for lots to happen on the transfer front, but if Ross Stewart is the man who replaces Charlie Wyke, I’ll be happy to give him a go.
I’d be surprised if Stewart, or anyone else for that matter, was to net 31 goals in a red and white shirt this season, but if fully fit and firing on all cylinders, he’ll have a huge role to play.
Stewart has a more varied game, and is more of an all round footballer than the former Bradford City goal machine, and Lee Johnson will no doubt be thinking with our new signing Alex Pritchard in mind.
With Pritchard as a number 10, and McGeady again taking his place on the left, you’d expect goals to be shared around more than last term, and Stewart certainly looks to be an all round team player.
Make no mistake, more players will be arriving ahead of the new campaign, but I’d have no worries giving Wyke’s shirt to Stewart for the opening game and beyond.