Lee Cattermole's stock is at an all-time low '“ can he win over Sunderland fans again?
When we kick off against Charlton tomorrow, it will be almost 10 years to the day since we began our first campaign outside of the top flight.
Last year, we kicked off against Derby County in front of almost 30,000 fans, picking up a well-earned point. It was a false dawn and what ensued was, I’m sure you don’t need reminding, a season of misery that none of us had envisaged.
Who would have thought 12 months later, we’d be in League One?
Lee Cattermole, man-of-the-match that day, spent the rest of the season looking like a player struggling with the rigours of Championship football, while his partner in the middle of the park, Didier Ndong, has gone from a bright spark of vast potential, to becoming a symbol of everything that was wrong with the outgoing Ellis Short regime, having failed to show up for training after the summer break.
I tend not to read too much into squad numbers, but that one of those players has been given one and the other has had their wages stopped, is telling. Cattermole’s retention of the number six shirt and his regular presence in midfield during pre-season indicates that, barring a last week of the window transfer away from Wearside, he will be involved in this Sunderland side.
Cattermole’s stock with the Sunderland support is at an all-time low, and if he is to win us over, he will need to put in performances akin to the one against Derby County on a consistent basis.
If he does, he could be the driving force in a march towards promotion. Anything less and he will rightly be seen as part a long-standing problem at the club.
Perhaps even more surprising is Bryan Oviedo’s continued possession of the number three jersey.
If the Costa Rican approaches the season with the right mentality, he has the ability to be a huge plus in Sunderland’s season. A World Cup starter in a third tier team - not many clubs can boast that.
Similarly, Aiden McGeady’s undoubted ability makes him a potential asset for us, and if he can get and stay fit, he should score at least 15 goals in League One.
Charlie Wyke, Sunderland’s new number nine, will have to wait a few weeks before he can lead the line for his new club, but his physical presence and goalscoring pedigree fill what was a gaping hole in this squad.
Meanwhile, Glenn Loovens, who I was surprised to see not made club captain, will bring much-needed nous, experience and physicality to the back four.
Other than that, I must confess to not knowing a great deal about our summer signings. Dylan McGeouch appears to be one to watch, having impressed in pre-season and coming with a good reputation, while Jon McLaughlin hopefully brings a safe pair of hands to a side that has been bereft of anything like a quality goalkeeper for too long.
Whoever starts, I’m just looking forward to getting a first glimpse of what Jack Ross’s new-look team is likely to be about.
On the surface, it has potential to be an exciting, goalscoring, attacking team, capable of winning the league.
A win is by no means essential, but it would be fantastic if Sunderland could build on the new feelgood factor.