A third season for Sunderland in League One seems unthinkable. If failure to win promotion last season was a failure, as the owners and then manager Jack Ross admitted would be the case, another stumble would be hard to bear.
Phil Parkinson, working with his inherited squad, has had a patchy start as Ross’s successor, three away defeats mitigated by three home wins, cup ties included. The league part of that short record – two wins, two defeats – is not the stuff of automatic promotion. Without significant improvement, we will remain playoff contenders.