RR: What would you say are the biggest challenges facing a team coming up from League One after promotion in their first season back?
Rovers Chat: I think the obvious answer is the parachute payments. Teams are coming down from the Premier League and receiving plenty of money for it, and that’s part of the challenge- I dread to think what Fulham paid the likes of Mitrovic last year, even though it turned out to be worth it.
Keeping hold of players can also be a struggle as players can become hot property, but we do seem to see this happening less over the last few years so this may not be too much of a concern.
Teams often change their playing style as well as they are playing better, higher quality sides and tactics do take time, so that may be something to take into consideration.
RR: Everyone knows that Sunderland are a massive club, even at this level. How much do you think that counts in the Championship?
Rovers Chat: I’m not sure it helps a lot in all honesty, we’ve seen the likes of Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday struggle massively in recent years.
The home support can, however, play a big part, and the massive clubs tend to have better support. There’s places in the Championship that tend to be tougher, and a lot of them are/were the bigger clubs - like Leeds, Aston Villa and others.
RR: What would you say is the hardest thing about the Championship?
Rovers Chat: The hardest thing about the Championship is finding the consistency to keep grinding out results.
With three matches in seven days being a regular thing, the Championship table can change so much across a week. We’ve seen sides lose four or five on the bounce and drop considerably far away from the play-off spots, and the opposite can be said for a winning run.
If you’re losing often and playing Saturday and Tuesday, the losses pile up and before you know it, you are chasing other sides and that is never a good position to be in.
RR: What do you believe it takes for a team to get promoted out of the Championship, and where do you think your club has failed over the years in that respect?
Rovers Chat: The things it takes to get promoted are exactly what we’ve struggled with in recent seasons, and that’s why we’re discussing another Championship season despite our lofty position around Christmas of last season.
Keeping a consistent team is an important factor in promotion to the Premier League - just look at the Norwich side that went up twice, you could name nine or ten of the positions before the season began.
Rovers have struggled with doing this over recent years due to injuries and knocks, and managerial choices, and that is why our play-off hopes and ambitions haven’t been met.
I’d also suggest the consistency point from above. Games come thick and fast and if you can get into a winning run and a goalscoring run as well, you can pick up plenty of points in a short period and it’s a big boost going forward.
As you can see, the main word is consistency...
RR: Do you think that there’s a big difference between the clubs in the Championship and the clubs in League One, or not?
Rovers Chat: I wouldn’t suggest so. Plenty of sides have come up in the last few seasons and performed above their expectations, and I expect the same in the coming season with the likes of Reading and Birmingham looking likely to struggle.
If you can add a couple of players into the side and keep the spirit and togetherness going from last season, I’d expect Sunderland to comfortably stay up.
RR: Why do you think well-established clubs struggle to gain momentum in the Championship, whereas in recent seasons smaller clubs like Luton and Barnsley have successfully broken into the Play-Offs and came close to promotion?
Rovers Chat: Good question, and it is a tough one!
The league is such an open one and like every division of football across the world, shocks happen and I suppose that is what has happened here.
Sometimes, sides just find a way of playing that other teams can not work out. They might not be the best side in terms of technical ability, but the style alongside the togetherness helps build a push for the top six.
Luton and Huddersfield, for me, found their way last year and stuck through it regardless of bad spells and it pays off - patience is needed!
RR: Figures show that Championship clubs in recent seasons are spending far less on transfer fees than they have in previous years. Why do you think that is?
Rovers Chat: I think the answer, and probably the obvious one, is Covid - and of course, FFP.
Covid really depleted the Championship sides’ finances, and with Premier League sides coming down with all this money, the previously mentioned gap between the relegated Premier League sides and the rest is growing.
FFP means sides are watching what they spend, with the majority of teams preferring to build the side across several transfer windows rather than going all out to try and compete with the parachute payment sides.
RR: Sunderland fans aren’t quite sure what to expect from the Championship - what would your advice be to any SAFC fans reading this when it comes to expectations?
Rovers Chat: If I was a supporter of the side coming into the Championship, I’d expect a season of plenty of ups and downs. Times will be tough for the team, but the main thing is to stick by them and help them get back to winning ways. Sunderland will be well-backed throughout the season I expect, and that support should help the side.
Results will be unexpected at times, but enjoy the league and don’t over-react when results are going either way.
I’m confident Sunderland will be fine in this division, and who knows, you could be back in the top flight if Neil can work his magic.
All the best for the season, and I look forward to the trip up to the SoL this Christmas.