The new season is fast approaching, and pre-season preparations are well underway. One departure from the club which threatened to drag on throughout the summer has been all but brought to an end by Lee Johnson.
The confirmed departure of Charlie Wyke means it’s all change up front next season. The replacement Wyke’s goals will partially come in the form of new signings, but the 2021-22 campaign looks set to have become much more important for another Sunderland forward following the departure.
Ross Stewart was signed from Ross County in January after finishing with a goal record of one in three matches in six seasons in Scotland. Struggling at first with injury, Stewart made an instant impact scoring in a 2-0 win at Accrington Stanley.
The rest of the season was one of frustration as it seemed he was playing second fiddle to Charlie Wyke. Stewart ended the season with three goals in 13 appearances. He looked promising when he did feature, but next season a bigger role will no doubt be thrown on top of him.
At over six foot two, Stewart is a dominant figure on the pitch. He has a turn of pace and decent touch which is not usually associated with tall players.
A large number of Wyke’s goals last season were supplied by Aidan McGeady. If the Irishman can get as many balls into the box on the money next season as we did last, then we should all be hoping Stewart is there on the end of them.
Having over 100 first-team appearances under his belt by the time he turned 23 is an experience some players Stewart’s age simply don’t get the chance of. His goal-scoring rate might not be the best, but a new-look midfield (which ours may be following the departure of several players), will arguably be the best that Stewart has played alongside.
Another striker is needed, given that we have just three senior strikers at the club and one of those is Will Grigg. However, Stewart will have a vital part to play as the talisman of the side.
The need for a striker is made even more crucial given that our second top scorer last season was Grant Leadbitter, who finished 18 goals behind Charlie Wyke. Whilst it is important that Stewart chips in with more goals, we can’t be relying solely on him. To get promoted, you need multiple players to have strong goal-scoring seasons - Peterborough are the prime example from last season.
Given a run in the team and plenty of support from behind him, I believe that Stewart can at least go some way to filling the gap in goals that Charlie Wyke will leave. Unless a proven, prolific goalscorer is signed up in the next month, you would assume Stewart will be Lee Johnson’s number one striker.
It is important that we are not relying on one player to bag all of our goals, but the goalscoring burden needs to be shared around equally.
Our strikers should be getting double figures at least, and Stewart is in for a very important season. We should all be hoping that he can fire us out of this league once and for all.