The pre-match displays were brilliant, and can play a part in making the Stadium of Light a fortress!
What a feeling it was to be back at the Stadium of Light yesterday. Our return to the Championship took place far later than we all expected, but it was a great feeling seeing the ground packed and with a buzz around the place for a fresh league and new beginning.
What I particularly thought was fantastic was the pre-match display arranged by The Spirit of 37, as the flag in the South Stand combined with the tifo in the East Stand was both iconic and showcased the identity of the club.
We all know that coming into a superior league, our home form will be absolutely pivotal, so it is crucial that other clubs even at this level see the SoL as a difficult place to come because of the atmosphere that is generated by our fanbase.
With an increase in season ticket sales, combined with a likely increase in matchday sales due to playing better/more well-known teams, there is no reason why flags and displays can’t become a more regular occurrence, rather than just a once-a-season thing.
Fans enjoy being more involved with their club and I think it adds to the matchday experience of playing a part as the 12th man.
The Stadium of Light becoming a fortress would be crucial to Sunderland establishing ourselves back at this level and doing everything we can to improve the atmosphere would surely play a part.
Coventry’s pace and power off the bench swung the match in their favour
Following a productive first half in which Sunderland restricted Coventry to one long-range effort from Jonathan Panzo (which Anthony Patterson did incredibly well to save), Alex Neil’s side looked fairly comfortable against a good Championship side.
The key part that changed the match for me was in the 73rd minute when Mark Robins brought on three players, all of whom had pace and energy against tired legs.
Frankaty Dabo in particular caused Sunderland vast problems down his side and it showed that at this level and with the new five subs, having depth is crucial.
Whilst one manager brought on energy to dominate and get in behind, another was left very limited in what to change with three defenders on the bench.
The match concluded quite nervously for the lads who dug in well to fight back and preserve a point, but I think the changes clearly displayed that we are going to need players on the bench who can make a difference.
Luke O’Nien didn’t add what Neil would have wanted and was lucky not to be sent off, plus we struggled to get Patrick Roberts into the match.
Alex Neil reflects on today's opening-day draw.— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) July 31, 2022
Full interview... pic.twitter.com/CI4vVcQ2df
Four academy graduates starting against Coventry shows how crucial an asset our academy is to our club!
On a massively positive note, following years of neglect and asset stripping, it was fantastic to see that on our return to the second tier, four academy players started in Patterson, Lynden Gooch, Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil.
In an era where some clubs are considering scrapping academies, as well as one in which Sunderland have lost talent after talent, it was fantastic to see four lads reaping the rewards of sticking with the club throughout our demise.
Those players are an inspiration to existing younger players in our academy, but also represent excellent case studies for players we are trying to attract that Sunderland is a club that will provide time and development to those in the building, rather than always looking for something elsewhere.
As part of the rebuilding process of the club, it is simply crucial that we have a thriving academy system and it is always brilliant to see lads with a connection to the club, whether that be local or nurtured, performing well in red and white.
Four #SAFCAcademy graduates started in today's Championship opener at the Stadium of Light! #SAFC pic.twitter.com/48ez1pHSjg— SAFC Academy (@AcademyOfLight) July 31, 2022
Alex Neil said that he wanted to bring in four and five more signings - where do you think Sunderland need to strengthen?
During his post-match interviews, Alex Neil mentioned his desire to bring in further bodies, as Sunderland require more depth in certain areas.
As mentioned above on Coventry’s game-changing substitutions, teams are able to change games far easier when they have a squad of established and experienced players at this level.
Sunderland are going to face teams who play at a higher intensity, who are more comfortable technically on the ball and also who simply possess more pace and power.
The same squad that got us promoted may well be enough to survive potentially, but to further compete we need more than one player in certain areas and we may need to loan our squad players out to bring in added quality.
The fact that Neil chose to avoid selecting both Jack Diamond and Leon Dajaku when three defenders were selected to me indicates that they will both leave on loan when adequate replacements are found.
I believe Sunderland would benefit from another right-back to compete with Gooch (with Hume going on loan), a new central midfielder, a winger and a striker (assuming this will be Broadhead).
The last position could be competition for Dennis Cirkin at left-back, or another goalkeeper to compete with Patterson given that Alex Bass played in League Two last season.
Where do you think Sunderland need to strengthen?