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Roker Roundtable: How are the Lads shaping up as we begin pre-season?

This weekend will see Sunderland kick off their schedule of pre-season fixtures. How optimistic are we that our preparations for 2022/2023 are progressing as planned?

Malc Dugdale says…

On balance, I’m reasonably happy with our business so far, but I do think the next five weeks are critical to the levels of success we are likely to see in the new season, and the sooner the signings come in the more impactful they can be from the start of the campaign.

The terms agreed with Patto and Gooch were good news, let’s not deny that, and securing Roberts ahead of pre-season so he can hit opponents hard from game one is a cracking bit of business for me.

We have to remember however that we only went up after finishing fifth when 46 games had been played. We didn’t cruise the League One season, and hence we don’t have reason to be complacent assuming that what we had last season is likely good enough to consolidate with. That wasn’t the case last time we were in this league, and we entered it from the other direction on that occasion, with supposedly higher quality players across the park.

We need to carry on with the comparatively simpler jobs of holding onto and extending the tenures of players we see as crucial, but we absolutely must strengthen too. Ross has to stay but he needs a couple of fellow attackers to support. Bailey needs to stay but we need wide defenders (as always). The middle of the park is arguably our stronger area but we need players who can add experience, variation and options.

When Pritch took a knock for spell late last season the quality of our set pieces dropped away a lot, and we may rely on those even more as we consolidate in the second tier, as a lot of games are going to be very tough.

I'm happy with business done so far but we need much more, and the sooner they hold that scarf above their heads the earlier we can expect them to gel with the team, understand the coaches ways and tactics, and really add value to what we can give out fans in terms of performance and results. Hopefully now the ownership farce is clearer that will not get in the way either, but I’d like to see 4-5 more faces ideally in the next two weeks.

Andrew Smithson says…

In an ideal world I’d love to have a couple of new faces already bedding in, but the recruitment team have credit in the bank as far as I am concerned so if they think it is beneficial to sit tight and wait for the right deals to fall into place then so be it. The new contract announcements would suggest that things are happening in the background anyway, so I don’t get the impression people are just sat around twiddling their thumbs.

Frustrating as it is at the time, I’d rather wait and get the right people instead of rushing in. One of the extra plus points to biding our time is that in the first couple of preseason games we could see some of the younger lads that are already here stepping up and filling the spaces. We saw Anthony Patterson get some minutes under his belt last year and look at him now - he seems set to be a regular in the Championship, and if one or two others follow his lead it will be a huge bonus.

The opportunity could be there for somebody like Ellis Taylor to show what he can do. Based on what we have seen so far he has real potential, and if somebody like him can come in and look the part it may save a few quid and allow Sunderland to put their resources into other positions instead.

Transfer deals are never straightforward, but the signs are encouraging and the time in between can still be put to good use.

Phil West says…

Despite the lack of transfer business so far, I’m not too concerned as we start the build up to the new season.

If last summer was any indication, transfers will be done in a low-key fashion and with as little fanfare as possible, which is absolutely fine. Indeed, by the time we kick off against Blyth, perhaps it will be on the back of one or two new players being signed, and everyone will be on a high as a result.

In the meantime, it feels like opportunities will present themselves for the likes of Jack Diamond and Ellis Taylor, as Alex Neil looks set to use the early pre-season friendlies as an opportunity to evaluate his wider squad, to determine who might be worth persisting with, and how his core group of players is shaping up after their summer break.

There has been a lot of speculation about Diamond’s future and whether he is capable of stepping up from League Two to the Championship, and he needs to ensure that he maximises every opportunity he is given. The same is true of Taylor- a very talented player who may well find himself loaned out in order to accrue some much-needed game time.

During this pre-season schedule, a clean slate will hopefully be the order of the day for everyone, and I get a sense that Neil will be keeping a keen eye on the players’ collective mindset, who looks motivated and who puts their hand up the highest.

It feels like barely five minutes since Wembley, but before you know it, we will be kicking off against Coventry, by which time, everyone needs to be fully up to speed and ready to hit the ground running.


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