Now firmly established as a top flight club this season is about progression rather than regression for Sunderland. Having returned to the Premier League in 2007 they have enjoyed a number of mixed seasons which has seen changes both in the boardroom as well as the managerial and playing staff.
Having finished 10th last season manager Steve Bruce will be hoping for a more consistent season from his players. The loss last year of Darren Bent, who was sold during the January transfer window, was a big blow for the club and almost cost them dearly.
Since the end of last season Sunderland have looked to add some quality and depth to their squad. The signings of John O’Shea and Wes Brown from Manchester Utd have been a major coup for the club.
The fact that they can attract two highly successful players, who have won trophies a plenty in their careers, says a lot for the ambition of Sunderland. Having players of that calibre can only benefit Sunderland.
Both O’Shea and Brown bring a wealth of experience to Weir side with them and also they bring a winning attitude having been immersed in a winning culture during their time at Man Utd. If that attitude can seep into the rest of the team and the club then the possibilities for Sunderland could be endless.
Sunderland have also snapped up highly rated ex Derry winger James McClean, Coventry City keeper Keiren Westwood and Birmingham winger Seb Larsson plus Blackpool midfielder David Vaughan.
Although they have bought smartly to shore up their defence Sunderland still need a 15-20 goal a season striker. That’s what they had when Bent was at the club. He could be relied upon to get a goal when it matter. When he left Sunderland began to nose dive.
Much of the pressure will be placed upon recent signings Connor Wickham, who was brought in from Ipswich Town for a reported fee of £8m plus striker Ji Dong-won from Chunnam Dragons to lead the line for the Black Cats this year as their main striker Frazier Campbell has been ruled out for the majority of the season.
Last season was a write off for Campbell as he suffered a horror 2010-11 season after sustaining two serious knee injuries over the course of the campaign.
He tore his cruciate knee ligaments in the season’s fourth game, necessitating a comeback which spanned more than seven months.
However, the injury re-occurred on the training ground following Campbell’s return to fitness, ruling him out for up a year.
The need for a top class striker is huge for Sunderland so much so that without one all the good work that has been done in recent seasons could be undone. Without a striker in the mould of Darren Bent it could be a long season for Sunderland.
There is a fresh look to the Sunderland squad as they head into the new season. Old faces have been replaced and if that fresh buzz and energy that new singings can be harnessed in the right way then it could be an exciting season for Sunderland.
Cracking the top eight come the seasons end could be a realistic target for Steve Bruce and his team. The yo yo team that they once were seems to be a thing of the past and if the new singings can settle and flourish then a top half finishing position is a viable ambition.
Finishing position : 9th
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