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Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final

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Sunderland’s aim must be to compete in the Championship - can they do it?

“The club has moved quickly by releasing the retained list, but building a competitive squad will be tough, and the hard work starts now,” writes Jon Guy.

In with a chance - we need to have a squad that can truly compete
| Photo by Federico Maranesi/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In the aftermath of Sunderland’s playoff final victory, Kristjaan Speakman has been courting the press to explain how he sees the club’s transfer policy, and our ambitions for the coming season.

Although it is early days, it seems that the go-to buzzword for our sporting director is ‘competitive’.

When asked what sort of budget Alex Neil will be working with, the response was ‘competitive’, although Speakman did caveat his reply by adding that the board would be meeting to finalize matters in the coming days.

The questions regarding the club’s targets for next season soon followed, and Speakman again said that they were not looking to limit their ambitions, but that they wanted to be ‘competitive’. He also urged caution, explaining that the players are likely to take time to adjust to the league.

With promotion to the Premier League as Norwich City boss on his CV, and having also managed Preston North End with a limited budget at his disposal, it feels inevitable that Neil is likely to want to see a degree of ambition from those above him.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

However, I am sure that the board explained their vision of a financially sustainable future to the boss when he was appointed.

One thing is for sure, and that is that the Championship is the most competitive league in the country. Despite their relegation from the top flight, parachute payments will provide Norwich, Watford and Burnley with millions in extra revenue to enable them to strengthen squads that were designed to compete in the Premier League.

Looking on the bright side, the 2021/2022 season has illustrated how a sensible recruitment strategy can pay dividends in the division, and you only have to look at Luton Town as proof that it is the passion and skill, and not the monetary value of your squad that delivers success.

I really don’t think the mentality of Sunderland’s squad will be a problem - Neil will see to that. We will be well-structured, and having had a full pre-season - and hopefully a successful transfer window- we will head into 2022/2023 very much in with a chance of success.

There may interest in some of our more valuable players, and it is possible that the biggest success will be fending off bids for the likes of Ross Stewart, Dan Neil, and dare I say it, Alex Pritchard.

Sunderland v Wycombe Wanderers - Sky Bet League One - Play Off - Final - Wembley Stadium Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Talk of a potential return for Nathan Broadhead is all over the internet, but we cannot let that potential transfer turn into a saga that diverts our attention away from other targets who are hopefully keen to play at the Stadium of Light.

For our first season back in the Championship, I would be happy to see the club build a squad that enables us to approach each game with a reasonable chance of winning, should we play at our best.

That, to me, defines the word ‘competitive’.

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