A takeover, more Maja magic and a cup run: My hopes for Sunderland in 2018
After considered thought it was no great surprise but there was still something rather shocking about seeing the table, compiled by the excellent experimental361.com, that showed Sunderland had the worst record in the football league last year.
With that in mind, the biggest hopes for 2018 are fairly straightforward, aren’t they?
More wins, special away days and a fortress rebuilt. Survival this season and genuine progress towards the top six.
Easier said than done.
This is what I’d like to see to help them get there...
A Cup run....
A long spell in the top tier produced some special moments. Famous wins over the best teams in the league and an incredible derby run that will be revered for generations.
Yet few memories will be as fondly treasured as the League Cup run that ended with an unforgettable weekend at Wembley.
Coleman has no choice but to prioritize Championship safety this season, but some cup wins would do much to change the pervading narrative of a failing club and show that things can be different under the impressive new manager.
Breaking the losing habit and building momentum is key and a cup run could forge some real unity on Wearside.
Targeted loans and better recruitment....
Sunderland’s recruitment department was revamped in the summer and so far Chris Coleman has been impressed with what he has seen.
Talk behind the scenes has been of signing for the club, not the manager. Of course Coleman will have the final say, but the idea is to plan in a way that can survive any potential changes in management, as most successful clubs do.
Younger, more energetic players will be top of the list.
Coleman has inherited an imbalanced squad, the obvious consequence of two many windows where the goals have been short-term.
It would be a major boost to see signs of something more coherent in the new year, particularly in the use of loans.
Those deals are crucial to Championship success, but rather than last-minute panic options, the Black Cats need to get ahead of the game and secure deals for the brightest talents from the Premier League’s cash-rich academies.
Danny Rose and Danny Welbeck are two players who Sunderland supporters can watch with great pride and it would be wonderful to see 2018 add one or two others to the list.
Talk of recruitment, tactics and staff is of course valid, but it also remains true that the biggest catalyst for change would be new ownership.
Wolves have shown that the landscape of the league is changing and it will be increasingly hard to challenge for promotion without significant investment in the playing squad.
Ellis Short has written those cheques before and is understandably wary, but at some point Sunderland will need fresh ideas.
Bringing in Chris Coleman was a significant step in rebuilding morale, but is quite clearly only one part of the puzzle.
Youngsters to keep knocking on the door
George Honeyman has been criticised for his performance in the defeat to Barnsley and he was certainly short of his best.
He clearly has much to work on, but it also been a treat to watch his endeavour in many of the games this season.
If he can continue to grow, Sunderland will have a low-cost addition who understands the club better than most players could.
The same goes for Duncan Watmore, who suffered a cruel 2017, but can still be part of Sunderland’s future in a major way.
Having delivered one of the few great moments of last year, one also hopes Josh Maja can become a regular.
What separates him from most talents of his age is his humility and game intelligence.
He has all the tools to be a success and, while the last couple of games will have been a significant culture shock for him, he will be all the better for the experience.