For everyone connected with Sunderland, it has been an unusually positive pre-season- both on and off the pitch.
Whether it is the influence of Alex Neil, or the departure of Charlie Methven, I’m not exactly sure, but we are certainly in a good place at present.
Although last Saturday’s game against Glasgow Rangers was curtailed at half-time, the team showed enough to offer further proof of the positive way that Neil is setting them up for the coming campaign.
Yes, we lost to AS Roma on Wednesday, but some context is needed- here was a team packed full of internationals and starting the season having won a European competition last year.
For the first forty five minutes, I felt that we more then held our own against Jose Mourinho’s team, and you have to wonder whether, with Ross Stewart up front, the Italians may well have been facing a one or two-goal deficit at the break.
That said, I think that those of us who are heading to Dundee will do so with an air of expectation, after yesterday’s announcement that we have made our fourth summer signing in West Ham’s Aji Alese.
The protests from Hammers fans at the news speaks volumes about the potential they saw in Alese, and indeed, the clips that I have seen suggest that he has lightning pace and loves to get forward.
It is yet another example of Sunderland swooping for talented young players who have shone during loan spells, and were then in a position where they wanted regular first team football. With their parent clubs either unable or unwilling to make that promise, it left them with the exciting option of joining Neil’s team for the coming season.
Daniel Ballard has already proven himself in the Championship with Millwall, and Jack Clarke demonstrated his potential during the latter stages of last season. These are young, hugely talented players with a point to prove. and you could place Patrick Roberts into that bracket, too.
We have done some really decent business quite early, and although we still need reinforcements at either end of the pitch, things are looking incredibly positive as we build towards to our opening game against Coventry City.
Last week, the Sky Blues hailed the arrival of Callum Doyle on loan, and as we all know, he is a player who has a huge future ahead of him. However, it is indicative of the new approach at the Stadium of Light that we are now seeking to sign players on permanent deals, and that we are going about our business in a low-key fashion, with transfer targets not being leaked to the press beforehand.
As Sunderland fans, we have often concerned ourselves with the fact that we were heading into the new season undercooked, with people highlighting holes in the squad, and the fear that we would be left scrabbling around to fill those holes with players who would not even be third, let alone first choice.
It feels very different, this year and long may it continue!