Having enjoyed the opening game against a decent Coventry side, I’m brimming with optimism for the season ahead.
Our attacking threat will be one of the more potent in the division, and once the players adapt to this level we will get stronger as the season develops. Jack Clarke in particular looks like he will recapture the form and promise he showed at Leeds, which earned him his big-money move to Spurs, and had him touted as a future England player.
Ross Stewart showed that he isn’t out of place at this standard, and I think he’ll bag between 15-20 goals if given the service. The main man Pritchard just drips quality in everything he does - we need to keep feeding him between the lines to make the most of his attacking threat.
We didn’t really get to see much of Roberts, but again he has the quality needed to punish defenders in this league. At the back, Dan Ballard looked solid and although over eager at times to win the ball back he will develop and looks like he has played there for years.
Prior to the game, I felt we needed a specialist right back, another forward player and possibly an experienced championship midfielder - and my view hasn’t changed since full time. I was a bit surprised we weren’t in for Conor Hourihane, as he ticks the boxes for getting out of the league, scoring and assists and all-round play, but I’m sure the manager has the right players earmarked to fit with the current group.
For me, although Dan Neil faded he has such good feet and a couple of times breezed past his man - that combined with his ability to look up and play the ball forward will make him a key player if he can cope with the physicality of the Championship.
After the game, Alex Neil stated that he wants 4 or 5 new faces, and if we can get the right quality to back up what we have then I honestly think we could make the playoffs.
I certainly have no worries over being in a relegation fight, and I’m looking forward to watching us compete and maybe upset the apple cart come the end of the season.
It feels like our setup through the club is better than it has been for ages - I haven’t been this excited for a season in years. If we can add that extra bit of quality, and get to the point where we can dominate a game for 70-90 minutes rather than 20- 30-minute spells, then it should be a roller-coaster of a season.
The one thing you can say being a Sunderland fan is that it's never boring - every season since as long as I can remember we have something to play for going into the run-in.
I hope that’s the case again, and I look forward to the ride.