Season Preview: Sunderland A.F.C
Emanuele Giaccherini in action against Vit. Setubal during pre-season.
By local reporter Chris Young.
Stadium of Light
Jordi Gomez, Billy Jones, Costel Pantilimon, Patrick van Aanholt, Will Buckley, Jack Rodwell, Ricardo Alvarez (Loan), Sebastian Coates (Loan).
First five Barclays Premier League matches:
Newcastle United (H), Crystal Palace (A), Southampton (H), Swansea City (A), Aston Villa (H).
Hopes for the new season:
In a word, stability. Last season was one of the most memorable and dramatic in Sunderland's history, but it didn't help the blood pressure. Sunderland went to Wembley in the Capital One Cup final and did the double over Newcastle United, yet came so close to finding themselves in the Championship, and miraculously survived. Some consistency, signs of long-term progression and a comfortable mid-table finish would be welcome.
What are Sunderland's strengths?
Sunderland were far more organised after Poyet took over and certainly kept possession well. The players showed their character too in beating the drop when no one gave them a prayer. They still lacked a touch of attacking penetration which hopefully the new additions can aid. John O'Shea and Wes Brown's experience together could still prove to be vital.
What does Gus Poyet bring to the club?
Common sense really. He immediately put players in their natural positions, found a system which suited them and avoided any wild predictions of success. It's difficult to over-emphasise what an achievement it was to keep Sunderland in the Premier League too. That alone has demonstrated his prowess. The work he has done with Lee Cattermole also deserves particular acclaim, after turning the midfielder from a tough tackler into a sharp passer.
What is the mood like among the fans?
There's been a sense of recuperating after the season that was. But now thoughts are turning to whether Poyet can oversee further progress. He understandably has overwhelming support from those on the terraces after the escape from the jaws of relegation.
What matches will the fans be looking forward to?
Newcastle United, particularly after three successive wins against the Magpies.
What are the ones they dread?
In equal measure, Newcastle United.
What was the overall impression of last season?
A rollercoaster which may never be repeated. Those in the relegation dogfight this time around will surely talk about 'doing a Sunderland' when their plight begins to look dire.
Who is the best young talent that Barclays Premier League fans might see emerge this season?
Connor Wickham is still only 21 and will hope to build on his huge contribution to keeping the club in the top flight. But as for a player who is relatively unknown, perhaps winger Duncan Watmore may have a chance of pushing his way into the first-team picture. He made big strides after joining from Altrincham last summer, made his Sunderland debut in the FA Cup and then joined Hibs on loan. Very pacy, very direct and has a hunger to succeed.
The club in three words:
Never, ever dull.
If Jack Rodwell can rediscover the form he had before becoming a bench warmer at the Etihad, Sunderland may have an excellent midfielder on their hands. Similarily, Jordi Gomez could prove to be an astute addition by Poyet.
Expected starting XI against Newcastle United:
Some of the information has been taken directly from the official BPL website. This style of preview is something I plan to use again in future, albeit obviously with my own writing. I thought the official preview plus a few additional comments would be a good start!