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Sunderland

Manager: Jack Ross

Last season: 5th   

key player 

Aiden McGeady. Throughout his career he has always been a player who can create something from nothing, but finally delivered consistently last season, albeit in League One. McGeady has matured into a real leader and our season fell apart after he broke his foot with 8 games to go last year.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Three so far – Conor McLaughlin (right back) from Millwall and Lee Burge (goalkeeper) and Jordan Willis (centre back) from Coventry. Our 2ndchoice right back and 2ndand 3rdchoice goalkeepers all left in the summer so McLaughlin and Burge have been signed as backup, but there are high hopes for Willis, who by all accounts turned down offers from the Championship to come here. Our centre backs were so poor last season and really cost us at times, although signing Coventry’s goalkeeper and defender doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence given put 4 past them (but still lost 5-4!) towards the end of last season. 

Who TO SIGN

We were strongly linked with Marcus Maddison from Peterborough at the start of the summer – who is from the area and would have been an excellent signing – but that seems to have cooled off. Otherwise, we’re crying out for pace and athleticism in midfield. We have a lot of midfielders who are all quite similar – some quality on the ball, but slow and immobile. That is the root of most of our problems – the strikers are isolated and feed off scraps because there is no link between the midfield and attack, but but the midfield is often overran by more powerful, physical opposition. I was really impressed by Joe Aribo from Charlton who has since moved to Rangers, he is exactly the type of player we lack.

EXPECTED FINISH

We hovered between 2ndand 3rdmost of last season and were seconds away from extra time in the play-off final, so logically you’d think we’re not too far away from automatic promotion. However, performances seemed to get worse as the season went on before unravelling completely in the final few weeks, so the jury is out. I’d expect to finish comfortably in the play-offs again, but a lot depends on who we bring in whether or not we break into the top 2. We only lost twice between August and April last year, but drew 19 out of 46 and really need to learn to kill teams off if we’re to challenge.

EXCITING GAME

Portsmouth. We play them at home very early in the season and I’d expect there to be an edge to the game – we played them 5 times last season including the Checkatrade Trophy Final and play-off semi-finals, where a couple of their fans tried to attack one of our players during the game.

TROPHY?

I’d expect us to compete for the Checkatrade Trophy again, but otherwise I’d be surprised if we made it through to the 3rdround of the FA Cup, nevermind challenge for a ‘proper’ trophy.