A broadly realistic appraisal of Sunderland’s prospects for the coming season down below. The writer originally attached huge importance to the need to hang on to Jordan Pickford but his probable if unconfirmed move – for £30m including add-ons to Everton – is hardly a surprise given the young goalkeeper’s lofty ambitions. But with or without Pickford, what do we make of the 16/1 odds quoted on Sunderland for a title-winning promotion – generous, about right or not long enough? …
All in all, it was a season to forget for Sunderland supporters.
After surviving by the skin of their teeth in the last few years, the club were relegated to the Championship at the end of the campaign and David Moyes has left the club.
It is hard to be too optimistic about the road ahead but at least a new manager will be starting from a clean slate as Sunderland look to secure promotion to the Premier League at the first attempt.
Looking back at a dreadful season, most Sunderland fans will admit that they deserved to drop into the second tier. Moyes looked a broken man for the most part of the campaign and another Great Escape never seemed likely to happen.
Apart from the short-lived hope inspired by the 4-0 win at Crystal Palace in early February, Sunderland have been destined for the drop since Christmas and that inevitably gut-wrenching sensation relegation brings came before the end of April.
But it is now time to focus on the future and what must be done for Sunderland to give themselves the best possible chance of challenging at the top.
Unfortunately, Jermain Defoe is leaving the Stadium of Light for Bournemouth and Sunderland may struggle for goals in his absence.
Although expected, there were some supporters who hoped that Defoe might stay but the 34-year- old striker was determined to remain in the Premier League and also to move back south.
Replacing him with a competent, proven Championship striker has to be the main priority ahead of what could be a very busy summer for both arrivals and departures. There are players available for the right price but Sunderland cannot afford to be stingy in the market; astute financial planning is required.
Signing a forward is vital but so is acquiring a skilled, creative midfielder. According to reports, Sunderland are interested in Burnley’s Scott Arfield – a proven talent in England’s second tier. Back in January, the Clarets’ boss Sean Dyche moved for Robbie Brady and Arfield has struggled to make an impact.
Last season, he made 31 appearances for Burnley. He scored eight goals during their 2015-16 promotion campaign. If nothing else, his influence in attacking areas could give Sunderland something different to offer and he would probably be available at an affordable price.
At the other end of the pitch, keeping hold of Jordan Pickford would have given a huge boost to hopes of winning the Championship. Sunderland, priced at 16/1 for the title in bet365’s football betting odds, would have been relegated long before April 29 had it not been for Pickford’s incredible individual campaign.
Without a doubt, he was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League last season and, amid reports that Everton’s bid has been accepted, Sunderland look certain to have to do without this key player. How they fill the gap in could be of massive significance in any promotion push.
But before Sunderland focus too much on bringing in new talent, they must appoint a new boss and Derek McInnes fits the bill. The Aberdeen manager has done a tremendous job north of the border but he is never going to be able to end the Celtic/Rangers monopoly without an influx of cash.
At the Stadium of Light, he will be given the opportunity to build and mount a genuine challenge as Sunderland try to return to the Premier League. With the right signings and McInnes at the helm, Sunderland would stand a much better chance of promotion than they do at present.