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Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Hillsborough

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Roker Roundtable: Assessing Sunderland’s chances of Championship promotion

With the league set to be wide open and highly competitive, can the Lads keep themselves in the mix for a top six finish? We asked our writers for their thoughts.

Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images

Andy Thompson says…

At the beginning of the season, I thought we had a squad capable of pushing for the playoffs and after the first few games of the season, this hasn’t really shifted for me.

I still think we’ll be challenging for promotion if key players such as Jack Clarke and Dan Ballard can stay fit.

It’s a long season and the games will come thick and fast, so having a squad that’s fit and capable of meeting the physical demands of the league will be imperative for us to push for a playoff spot or even automatic promotion.

Personally, I think there are two things holding this squad back from a tilt at automatic promotion, and one of them is a lack of depth in central midfield.

We have Pierre Ekwah and Dan Neil, but other than that we’re light. Come January, it would be wise to acquire another holding midfielder to allow for injuries and giving breaks when needed, as well as adding more quality as back up options.

The other factor is the ruthlessness needed to gain promotion.

The Cardiff game was one of those days but it showed how much more ruthless we have to be, because there’ll be more occasions where teams will come and ‘park the bus’.

I’m not overly concerned as we carved out multiple chances that day but it does highlight the need to ensure it doesn’t become an issue, especially at home.

The quality in our squad is there for all to see and what’s more impressive is that we’re still bedding in some of the new recruits from summer.

These signings will ultimately add an extra dimension to our play, and even if we fail to get promoted this season, it bodes well for the club moving forwards.

One surprise for me has been the fact that the relegated sides don’t look as strong as I thought they would.

You suspect the likes of Ipswich and Preston won’t be able to keep up their form with the inevitable injuries and gruelling schedule the Championship provides.

Overall, the league isn’t looking as strong as I thought it would and it genuinely looks like quite an open race.

It’s arguable that only Leicester have really demonstrated promotion-worthy form but some performances haven’t been completely convincing.

It seems the league is definitely up for grabs and with the exuberance of youth on our side, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us challenging for the automatic promotion places come the end of the season.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images

Jonny Hawley says…

Yes! We’ve got to back ourselves.

This is essentially the same team that finished sixth last season and although there’s an Amad-shaped hole in the attack, our young players will have improved after last year’s experience.

Coming so close to a Wembley final will have hurt, but we’ve it seen time and again as a team is galvanised and goes a step further the following season, so why can’t we do the same?

In fact, I’d argue we were unlucky not to be at least in the playoff final as it was. We had no centre halves, no striker, were facing a physically dominant and direct side, and on another day we progress in Luton’s stead.

Unfortunately, we didn’t, so we go again.

Jack Clarke looks like a man possessed so far this season, and his goals could go a long way to replacing what we’ve lost. Combine that with a few breakthroughs from our new signings, and we’ll be well on the way to matching last season’s total, if not going a few points better.

Should we make the top six, who should we fear?

On our day, we’re one of the most frightening outfits anyone could come up against, and nobody will be itching to play us, will they?

Last season, there wasn’t a single team that outclassed us over two games, and even runaway league winners Burnley were there for the taking at home before an implosion in the second half.

I’m not arguing that we’ll finish in the automatics, as that would need some serious luck as well as a run of immense form that we might not have in the locker yet.

On the other hand, with how well we’ve started the season and how strong we look even with a handful of injuries, I’m confident, and so should we all be!

Malc Dugdale says…

I think we’re certainly capable of making the top six, and last season we very nearly made it to Wembley after a playoff run. The club that beat us went up too, which is even more gutting.

The main elements missing during the latter stages of last season were strikers and central defenders, and the club has done its level best to address those issues so we don’t suffer similar challenges next spring.

If the core of the defence can stay fit and the attacking players we’ve brought in can kick on, we’ve got a very good chance of our flowing football and scoring threats getting us to the national stadium.

Who we might meet there will be a big factor as some strong teams came down last season and beating one of them under the arch won’t be easy.

However, the confidence and togetherness this team continues to demonstrate suggests that they’re not afraid of anyone.

I’d back us to make the playoffs and if we get there, I’m not sure who can stop us based on the teams I’ve watched thus far. There’s a long way to go, though.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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