After the disappointment of the play-off defeat to Charlton in 2019, Sunderland supporters expected nothing less than promotion the following season.
And, in readiness for a campaign, Jack Ross wasted little time in adding some new faces to strengthen the squad. New signings Lee Burge and Conor McLaughlin had made their debuts in the first pre-season friendly – a 2-0 win over South Shields, while on this day just four years ago (although thankfully it seems like a lifetime) Jordan Willis made his bow against a Benfica B side in a friendly in Albufera.
The game finished 0-0, with both sides having chances although, in truth, Sunderland probably should have claimed victory given the number of chances we created through the game.
However, we had a scare inside the first couple of minutes – Lynden Gooch needed to head clear from under his own crossbar after Pedro Alvaro had flicked a corner towards goal.
And, five minutes later, Burge made an excellent block to deny Rodrigo Conceicao after he had got in behind the defence and into the penalty area.
Chris Maguire sent a couple of shots – one of which was from a free-kick – over the bar, but the closest Sunderland came in the first half was an effort from Gooch that clipped the woodwork on its way over.
The game was petering out into a typical pre-season game played in warm conditions - the tempo was slow, with both teams making an abundance of changes as the game wore on. Ross made four at half-time and in the second half the game struggled to regain its rhythm.
Chances were at a premium until late in the game. Ten minutes from time, Sunderland hit the woodwork for the second time in the game when sub Duncan Watmore found himself through on goal. He lifted his shot over the keeper only to see it come back off the bar, while the weak follow up from fellow sub Ruben Sammut was easily saved by the keeper on his line.
Despite the win and new signings, questions were still being asked as to whether this team was good enough to fight for the title.
Only time would tell.
Sunderland: Burge, Willis (Loovens 46), Ozturk (Flanagan 68), Baldwin, C McLaughlin (Sammut 46), Leadbitter (O’Nien 46), Robson (McGeouch 68), Maguire (Embleton 68), Gooch (Hume 68), Wyke (Watmore 68), Grigg (Kimpioka 46). Subs not used: J McLaughlin, Patterson, Diamond