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Hartlepool v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly

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After four years of toil for Sunderland in League One, it’s great to be back!

What is there to fear for Sunderland in the Championship? Lots, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t relish the challenge of pitting ourselves against a new crop of opponents - starting today.

Photo by Michael Driver /MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The wait for kick-off in our return to the Championship is almost over - a summer break made shorter by the early start to the new season has made the usually long break come and go in what feels like a heartbeat.

It’s been a relatively ordinary summer on Wearside with almost no drama, which has actually felt nice for a change.

We have quietly gone about recruiting in positions where it is needed, with the major acquisitions being another goalkeeper, two new centre backs and one (hopefully two soon) strikers to ease the goalscoring burden on Ross Stewart.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Ellis Simms
Ellis Simms is a welcome addition to our front line
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images,

We’ve then signed up those players from last season on longer deals, Alex Neil making it clear that he wanted to tie down those who played the biggest roles in us winning promotion last season.

The theme of Neil’s signings has been similar across the board, with young players with plenty of potential that are keen to make an impact coming in throughout the summer.

Gone are the days of drafting in thirty-somethings thinking that they could ‘do a job in League One’ - we’ll hopefully laugh about those transfers one day.

It feels as though we have gone back to actually trying to bring in players who may improve the squad, rather than desperately trying to plug gaps across the pitch.

We shouldn’t need to see Luke O’Nien play as a centre back at any point this season, and that will be great for all concerned.

Dundee United v Sunderland - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images

The return of Championship football to Sunderland looks set to be a special occasion in front of the Sky Sports Cameras.

A crowd of over 40,000 including a healthy following from Coventry on top of what is sure to be another memorable display by the Spirit of 37 group will hopefully be the tonic to get everyone around the club.

This is a far cry from the start of our last Championship season, when less than 30,000 watched Simon Grayson’s Sunderland.

If spending four seasons in the third tier meant that we’d never see a manager or players like that at Sunderland again, then so be it.

Bradford City v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Nobody around the club will be under any illusion that this will be a tough campaign, but it is one which I personally don’t have too much fear about.

I have confidence that we will have enough about us to not be in the relegation picture, and anything above that would be a bonus.

Under Alex Neil we will continue to play without fear and hopefully continue to be tough to beat, both home and away.

Most importantly, it’s going to be good to actually enjoy being in a league again.

The years of watching us falter against the likes of Shrewsbury Town and Accrington Stanley aged me, but the possibility of playing teams who will get at us sounds far more appealing - bring it on.

ROKER REWIND!

On this day (18 August 2009) Future England skipper makes first league start for the lads

OPINION!

Talking Points: Sunderland battled hard against The Blades but left with nothing

OPINION!

The Lads gave it their all, and that’s the very least that I expect from them

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