2018/19 Sunderland Season Preview 

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: A general view of the Stadium of Light during the Sky Bet Championship match between Sunderland and Middlesbrough at Stadium of Light on February 24, 2018 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images)

Sunderland find themselves in League One next season for just the second time in their history. Even so, more season tickets have been sold for this season than for last. Around 22,000 season tickets have been sold and that figure could reach 23,000 before the season begins.

A lot has happened on Wearside this summer with many changes occurring; changes that were needed for the club to have a chance of recovering and to hopefully move forward. Here is a look at some of what has gone on at the Stadium of Light this summer and what we can expect from next season.

Sunderland Season Preview

Last Season

Sunderland fans may want to skip to the next section. After relegation from the Premier League, the Black Cats underwent a huge turnover in staff and players. Unfortunately, the then owner, Ellis Short, was not able to sell the club. This led to just £1.25 million being spent on a new team. Many fans did not expect an instant return but a respectable showing was required.

After a promising start, things went from bad to worse as the club slipped into the relegation places. Manager Simon Grayson was sacked and in came Chris Coleman. Unfortunately, he was unable to stop the slide and the club were relegated for a second successive season. Coleman was sacked before the end of the season. Sunderland would now compete in England’s third tier for just the second time in their history.

Summer of Change

Ellis Short finally sold the club to end his unsuccessful time at the club. Also, Chief Executive Martin Bain left the club. The Black Cats now had a new owner in Stuart Donald, the former Eastleigh chairman. His first job was to appoint a new manager and he eventually got his man in St Mirren boss Jack Ross. With the club in League One, many of the players who took the club there wanted to leave. Therefore, a new squad would also need to be assembled; a tough task but one that everyone was determined to do and hopefully succeed at.

New Manager

Stuart Donald had his eye on one man when he took over; the highly-rated St Mirren manager Jack Ross. The Scot had taken over at The Saints when they were struggling in Scotland’s second tier. Within a year and a half, Ross not only saved the club but won the Championship with ease in just his second season. Ross was now a man in demand with several clubs interested. However, Sunderland acted fast and got their man.

Transfers In

Jerome Sinclair

Arrived recently from Watford on a season-long loan. The 21-year-old can play on either wing as well as a forward. The pacy striker has had spells at Liverpool, Wigan and Birmingham.

Glenn Loovens

The experienced defender has arrived on a free transfer having left Sheffield Wednesday. The 34-year-old ex-Celtic player has signed a two-year deal. His experience could be invaluable as the Black Cats look to get promoted at the first attempt.

Jon McLaughlin

Signed from Hearts for free. Has plenty of League One experience having previously played for Bradford and Burton. Part of the successful Hearts defence that kept a record eight clean sheets last season.

Tom Flanagan

Free transfer from Burton Albion. The defender was part of Albion’s defence that was promoted to the Championship in 2016. The versatile Northern Ireland international has signed a two-year contract.

Dylan McGeouch

The much sought after midfielder signed after his contract expired at Hibernian. The ex-Celtic player was part of the Hibs side that won the Scottish Cup in 2016. His performances for Hibs led to him becoming a Scotland international.

Alim Ozturk

Well known to new manager Jack Ross after they worked together at Hearts. He signed on a free transfer after leaving Turkish side Boluspor. He was given the captain’s armband at Hearts and is a Turkey U21 international.

Chris Maguire

The midfielder, who can also play as a forward, has joined from Bury. The former Aberdeen and Derby County player has signed a two-year deal. Has League One experience and scored 17 goals for Oxford during the 2016/17 season. He is a player with flair and passion with the ability to score goals.

Reece James

The former Manchester United left-back played for Wigan Athletic last season as they secured promotion from League One. The attack-minded defender was signed on free transfer.

Several other new players are expected to come in before the transfer deadline as Jack Ross continues to rebuild his squad.

Transfers Out

Jack Rodwell

Jack Rodwell finally left after advising the club that he didn’t want to play for them. That was last season. He was, however, still happy to collect £70,000 per week and refuse moves away. Best for all concerned that he has gone.

Wahbi Khazri

Saint-Etienne won the race to capture the Tunisian international. The Black Cats are believed to have received £6 million for him, which could rise, with add-ons, to around £9 million.

John O’Shea

Signed for Reading after his contract had expired. The veteran defender had been at the club for seven years and had been involved in various relegation fights and two successive relegations.

Billy Jones

Right-back Jones was released after his contract expired. Had his moments in a red and white shirt including scoring against rivals Newcastle. His time at Sunderland will not be looked at as a success.

Jason Steele

Signed last summer from Blackburn Rovers £500,000. Had a nightmare home debut in a 5-0 friendly defeat to Celtic. Performances got worse and he lost his place. Brighton took him for free at the beginning of the summer.

Joel Asoro

The winger/forward signed for Swansea City for £2 million. The promising Swedish Under-21 international had just one year left on his contract and told the club that he did not wish to play in League One.

Callum McManaman

The winger has returned to his former club Wigan Athletic. The former West Brom man signed for Sunderland last summer but wanted a return to the team he helped win the FA Cup and return to the Championship.

Paddy McNair

Left Sunderland to join north-east rivals Middlesbrough in the Championship. Several other clubs were interested but were not willing to pay his £5 million valuation. However, Boro did, and after an injury-filled spell on Wearside, the talented Northern Ireland international will ply his trade on Teeside.

Others to leave include Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens and Marc Wilson. Several other players are also expected to leave before the transfer deadline, including Lamine Koné, Papy Djilobodji and Bryan Oviedo. Lee Cattermole could also leave if a buyer can be found.

Pre-Season

The Black Cats have had a mixed bag of results this summer. Given the turnover in players and staff, this is understandable. They followed a defeat at Darlington with a draw at Hartlepool and a victory at Grimsby. They then visited manager Jack Ross’s old club St Mirren and triumphed 6-0. Their last friendly is against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Friday night.

Key Players

Several new signings and youngsters could prove key to Sunderland having a successful season. However, it is new signing Dylan McGeouch who is impressing the most.

The midfield playmaker has the ability to make things happen and dictate play. The highly rated Scot was a transfer coup for the Black Cats. McGeouch had offers from several clubs including Scottish Premier League side Aberdeen. However, Hibernian’s player of the year decided to move south of the border. If he performs then so will Sunderland.

Make Home a Fortress

It is no secret that Sunderland have struggled at home in recent seasons. This must change to ensure a successful campaign. The club and their fans are desperate to get back to the Championship at the first attempt. Making the Stadium of Light a fortress that visiting teams will not enjoy is a must.

Final Thoughts

Sunderland are one of the early favourites for promotion. Many say that a club the size of Sunderland should not be in League One. However, they are there for a reason. Poor management from the owner down and poor player recruitment amongst other things sees the club where it is.

New owners, manager, staff and players have brought renewed optimism to Wearside and their supporters from around the world. It will be tough next season but it would be a hugely disappointing campaign if the club is not battling for promotion come the end of the season.

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