Pete Sixsmith was once again called upon by The Observer for some pre-season thoughts …
Pre-season has been relatively uneventful on and off the pitch – not always a bad thing. We made three decent signings early on, have brought in Van Aanholt from Chelsea and expect a couple more before the season starts. Jordi Gomez looks a good one. He plays the style of football that Poyet likes and can score from midfield, something we are not great at. The haircut sported by Billy Jones looks dodgy, though.
Key players The ones who dragged us out of the mess we were in last year – Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole and Fletcher, although he desperately needs an injury-free start. The arrival of Jack Rodwell is an important one and gives us a box to box player that we badly need. If they can combine to get us off to a good first few months we may just avoid another anxious end to the campaign. We have some decent youngsters, too: look out for Duncan Watmore and Mikael Mandron who is eligible to play for England, Scotland and France.
Weak links Hopefully Rodwell will address the problem of a lack of creativity that has blighted us in the last few seasons. It would be good to see more young British players coming in.
Headline generator The owner is as uncontroversial as you will find, the manager behaves himself and the players seem as good as gold. I gather Connor Wickham is partial to the odd drop of champagne, though.
Three songs that define the side I consulted the oracle of Asbury Park, New Jersey, for this. Bruce gave me Outside Lookin’ In and Land of Hopes and Dreams, because a club like Sunderland can never crash into the big time a la Manchester City. But we do keep going, so what about Dusty Springfield with Wishin’ and Hoping?