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Harrogate v Sunderland - Pre-Season Friendly

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Sunderland 2021/22 Season Predictions: Do our writers think the Lads will get promoted? (Pt1)

It’s that time of year again... so, what do our panel predict the new season will have in store for us?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Where will Sunderland finish this season?


Philip West says...

Right now, it’s extremely difficult to predict where Sunderland will finish, given that our squad is not yet at full strength. Based purely on the players we can currently field, I see us as a top-eight team, and possibly a playoff team. With quality required to fill gaps in key areas, I don’t yet see us as being ready to challenge for automatic promotion, but I fully expect reinforcements to arrive, which could certainly give us a better chance.

Martin Wanless says...

I’m saying we’ll win the league. We’re in the third division – if we’re not aiming for the championship then we’re not doing it right. I do have concerns that we’re going into the start of the season a bit short (two full backs, even on loan, should have been brought in by now, surely?) but hopefully, that will be rectified this week. Haway.

Malcolm Dugdale says...

I think we will get auto promotion so first or second, but given the way our transfer window has gone, there is a risk we may have a slower start than is ideal. That’s ok though if we take our time and sign well rather than quickly, there is plenty of time to show what we can do.

Tom Albrighton says...

Strangely enough, I think despite the doom and gloom, Sunderland will do alright. Not great, but alright. A slowish start will be tempered by a strong run before Christmas. We’ll tail off a bit in January before a cabal of people demand Johnson’s head and state that KLD is a fraud. We’ll pick up towards the end of the season and finish comfortably in the play-offs... which we’ll win.

Sunderland AFC v Hull City - Pre-Season Friendly
Celebrations in store for SAFC?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Who will be promoted this season, and who are the potential dark horses in League One?


Philip West says...

It’s difficult to look beyond Ipswich as the favourite for automatic promotion. They’ve been on something of a transfer splurge this summer, and in Paul Cook, they’ve got a manager who’s been there and done it before. I’d also expect Wigan to be in the mix for a top-two finish as well. They’ve recruited very well, having snapped up Charlie Wyke and Max Power, among others, and they’ll certainly be competitive this season. In terms of the playoffs, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lincoln go one better than they did last season, having nabbed another ex-Black Cat in Chris Maguire, to add to their already-strong squad. Michael Appleton is definitely one of the best coaches in the league, and I’m sure that his team will be determined to deliver for their boss after they lost out to Blackpool at Wembley.

Martin Wanless says...

Us and Ipswich to go up automatically, and Rotherham through the play-offs. Ipswich have spent a lot on players who should be good enough to challenge for promotion, and Paul Cook is a proven manager at this level. However, I caveat my Ipswich prediction by saying Cook didn’t do too well for them last season, and if they don’t get off to a good start there could be pressure from the stands and the boardroom. Rotherham will be strong and could well go up too. Darkhorse? I think Bolton will surprise a lot of people this season.

Malcolm Dugdale says...

Ipswich have a good chance of going up automatically with us in my view. Oxford and Lincoln have done well the last two seasons so are most likely to be in playoff positions. Wigan have bought everyone’s cast-offs so may do OK and could be dark horses if they can get a tune out of Wyke. Rotherham will be in there too. I fancied MK Dons to do better this season, but I think they just lost their manager and coaching team to Wales, so who knows… then again Luton lost their manager and went up anyway!

Tom Albrighton says...

For automatic spots, I think Ipswich may be leading candidates. Outside of that, it’s anyone’s guess. I don’t look at this league as being steeped in quality and those relegated are very unknown quantities, all of which have their issues. A ’dark horse’ may well be Portsmouth should the Cowleys get them ticking.

Ipswich Town v Crystal Palace - Pre-Season Friendly
Will Ipswich go all the way?
Photo by Paul Harding/Getty Images

Who will be our star man this season?


Philip West says...

Again, you can only judge this based on the players we currently have, but I really feel that Callum Doyle has the potential to become an absolutely key player for us this season. He’s already made a superb impression in pre-season, and it’s staggering to think that he’s only 17. Defensive issues have plagued us for a long time, but with Doyle slotting in, hopefully that can change this season.

Martin Wanless says...

Ross Stewart – if he stays fit. I’ve been so impressed with him since he signed – he’s a huge aerial threat, is mobile, has pace and can finish. There’s an obvious concern over his physical robustness – he seems likely to pick up a number of muscle injuries – but if we can get past that we’ve got a player on our hands.

Malcolm Dugdale says...

Embleton looks like he means business from pre-season so we need to ensure we hold on to him and build around him. The blend of Embleton and Stewart with Pritchard, McGeady, Gooch and Diamond all playing in a way more attacking manner gets me quite excited.

Tom Albrighton says...

For star man, it’s slim pickings. That’s not to say there isn’t quality in the squad but I don’t feel we have a standout quality player, this season seems like we’ll be a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts. That being said, it would be great craic if Will Grigg stayed and bagged 20 goals.

Hearts vs Sunderland
Could it happen?!
Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images

Who of the rest could be one to watch, and are there any young players you back to make a breakthrough?


Philip West says...

I think this season will be Dan Neil’s breakthrough campaign at the SOL. Similar to many of his teammates, he’s impressed during pre-season, with his on-the-ball ability and willingness to be positive a far cry from the kind of uninspired style in which we played last season. He also seems to be the kind of player the fits the ‘Lee Johnson mould’, someone who’s only just tapping into his potential and a player with plenty of room to improve as the season unfolds.

Martin Wanless says...

I’d love to see Dan Neil really come through this season, and I hope he is given the game time – in midfield – I believe his talent warrants. However, I think this will be the season Elliot Embleton finally ‘arrives’. He’s had a few false starts, but I think Embleton could be a star this season. Two footed, creative, and has an eye for goal. What more do we need from an attacking midfielder?

Malcolm Dugdale says...

Doyle has already shown he will be one to watch. If Dan Neil can break into the team his passing will tear teams apart the way Johnson looks to be setting up. Evans looks like an astute holding midfielder too, way more to him than past options in that slot from early signs.

Tom Albrighton says...

Doyle is the obvious name for the list, given his impressive pedigree at such a young age. However, I think Dan Neil may leave a few people with egg on their faces. He has a lot that needs to be honed and perfected but exposure at this level should see him improve enough that by February he’ll be a regular feature. Embleton is another obvious choice should he stay fit.

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Papa John’s Trophy
Will this be Dan Neil’s season?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images
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