New teams, new grounds and plenty of mileage: Sunderland's League One opposition confirmed
The full League One line-up for next season has been confirmed '“ and there are plenty of new grounds for Sunderland fans to tick off.
In total, the Black Cats will travel to nine new grounds while facing five sides that they are yet to take on in a first-team fixture.
Sunderland will lock horns with Accrington Stanley, AFC Wimbledon, Fleetwood Town, Rochdale and Wycombe Wanderers for the first time after relegation to the first tier.
As well as trips to those clubs, fans can look forward to trips to Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium, Oxford United’s Kassam Stadium, Scunthorpe United’s Glanford Park, and Shrewsbury Town’s New Meadow for the first time in competitive first-team fixtures.
We take a look at the five new teams that the Black Cats will take on in the 2018-19 third-tier campaign:
Promoted from League Two as champions last season, John Coleman’s side will be keen to make their mark in the third tier.
While their financial resources will be dwarfed in comparison with Sunderland’s, Stanley have more than proved that they can compete on the pitch.
Even in League Two, Accrington had one of the smaller budgets in the division, but some astute recruitment and good use of the loan market saw them comfortably seal the league title.
Sunderland fans can look forward to a trip to the Wham Stadium, which is currently being upgraded. Away fans are housed on a small open terrace which, while nostalgic, is far from ideal if it rains.
The club are on an upward trajectory and will be keen to continue that and, while they may be many people’s favourites to be relegated, Stanley could well cause another shock this season if they can carry forward their momentum.
Having progressed through the non-league pyramid, having been formed from the ashes of Wimbledon, the phoenix club are now stable in the third tier.
Manager Neil Ardley has assembled a squad with plenty of quality and fight which has proven it can compete with the best in League One.
An 18th-place finish last season saw Wimbledon finish comfortably clear of the drop zone and Ardley will be looking to recruit wisely once again and improve next season.
Wimbledon’s home ground of Kingsmeadow will be another new one for Sunderland fans – although perhaps only temporarily as the club are looking to move to a new 11,000-seater stadium.
There’s sure to be plenty of interest in the Cod Army next season as former Newcastle United bad boy Joey Barton takes over as manager.
And the trip to the North West will certainly interest Sunderland fans as they eye up a seaside away day, close to Blackpool.
Fleetwood flirted with relegation for large parts of last season, but a late upturn in form saw them secure a 14th-place finish.
With Barton now at the helm, the Lancashire side could well push on this year.
Having dramatically stayed up on the final day last season, Rochdale will welcome Sunderland to Spotland, otherwise known as the Crown Oil Arena, for the first time in 2018/19.
The old-school ground plays host to Keith Hill’s side who will be hoping for a drastically better season this time around. With a good mix of youth and experience, Hill’s squad looks well-suited for the third tier, but their struggles last season could be cause for a squad overhaul.
It’s a relatively short trip for Sunderland fans, and an interesting new ground to visit.
Promoted alongside Accrington from the fourth tier were Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe, who finished third in League Two.
Similarly to Stanley, Ainsworth made good use of the loan market last season and pulled together a squad that was comfortably one of the best in the league, featuring powerhouse striker Adebayo Akinfenwa.
If they can strengthen further this year, then they could turn a few heads in the competitive league.
Sunderland fans will take in the relatively new Adams Park – an all-seater stadium situated in picturesque countryside.
How far will Sunderland fans travel?
With plenty of southern sides in the division, loyal fans are set to clock up almost 1,000 extra miles than they did in the Championship.
Supporters making round-trips to every League One game will travel 10,052 miles in 2018/19 – without any FA Cup, Carabao Cup or Checkatrade Trophy fixtures.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the longest trip of the season is to Plymouth Argyle as Sunderland will embark on a 812-mile round trip.
The visits to Portsmouth (676 miles), AFC Wimbledon (608 miles) and Gillingham (606 miles) are also worthy of mention as Sunderland fans eye some new away days.