Pre-season this year has been pretty flat. It feels like I’ve gone weeks without really taking note of events at Sunderland – not that much has happened since the play-off defeat back in May.
The loss feels like a lifetime away, and we’ve had plenty of time to mull over a campaign that, for the majority, was very disappointing.
The only problem is that this summer isn’t the first where I’ve felt like this. The summer of 2021 is the fourth in a row where we have faced a campaign in League One. Each summer the feeling of wanting to get out of the third tier grows, and once again the sense of déjà vu is setting in; a squad not good enough to get promoted has been disbanded and the lack of incoming transfer activity is a concern.
We have been here before.
Each summer there is a clamour for a rebuild in positions where there is most concern, and seemingly every summer it feels as though little happens at the club for weeks.
The lack of genuine activity and footballing action allows for the spreading of ridiculous rumours on social media. This is perhaps the most tedious part of a pre-season and does nothing but waste people’s time.
These rumours drag on throughout the summer and when looked back on with the benefit of hindsight seemed to have been formulated for nothing more than entertainment purposes.
Our first pre-season fixture, away at National League North outfit Spennymoor Town, kicks off this weekend and we are yet to make a signing. Some key figures have signed up for the new season, most noticeably Aiden McGeady, but the squad looks thin on the ground.
Add into this the fact some of the sides gunning for promotion around us have already made additions, and you get understandable concern.
As it stands, we have the bare bones of a side that failed last season. We are without our best central defender (who wasn’t ours in the first place) and looking more and more likely to lose 31-goal Charlie Wyke. These are positions that need filling before we kick off against Wigan Athletic in just over a month’s time. Whether we do or not could be vital in our attempts to avoid a fifth (sigh) season in the third tier.
Sunderland’s sluggish activity in the transfer market is nothing new. The days in the Premier League often came with the club scratching around for bargain signings to patch up holes in the squad.
If we weren’t filling the changing room with cheap and cheerful options, we were splashing the cash on players worth a fraction of the amount paid. From Didier N’Dong to Will Grigg, Sunderland’s transfer policy in the last five years has been mediocre; and that’s being polite.
Realistically, to get into the Championship and stay there, we probably need at least two good transfer windows. When we haven’t had two decent windows in the last five years, this seems like a big ask. Waiting around for the summer preparations to kick in is always concerning, but it’s a feeling I, as a Sunderland fan in League One, have become all too accustomed to these last three years.