Aiden McGeady’s long-awaited (unofficial) debut came in the goalless draw with Scunthorpe United but the big talking point pre-match was the future of Jeremain Lens.
Lens was missing with a hip injury but transfer speculation over his future will remain.
Once the action got underway, all eyes were on 31-year-old McGeady, signed for a bargain £250,000 deal from Everton.
The Republic of Ireland international has had to wait patiently after picking up a knock in training but he was in from the start against League One Iron, playing wide left in a 4-1-4-1 system.
Having spent last season on loan at Preston North End under Simon Grayson, where he scored eight goals, the Sunderland boss is fully aware of what he will bring.
Craft, guile, an eye for a goal and hopefully a boatload of assists.
Against Scunthorpe, McGeady understandably looked short of match practice and it would be unfair to judge him based on this first showing as he got an hour under his belt.
The tempo and rhythm of the game was flat, with both sides struggling to build any sort of momentum.
Having not had much luck on the left wing, McGeady sought to come inside, swapping with George Honeyman as Sunderland looked for a breakthrough, while also spending time on the right wing.
McGeady didn’t have much impact on the Iron defence though he should have tested Matt Gilks, the winger narrowly failing to connect to Darron Gibson’s lofted pass.
There was flashes of his undoubted talent, he gave full back Conor Townsend a brief run around before half-time and McGeady did show his range of passing and his versatility with McGeady comfortable on both wings and in a central role.
McGeady was understandably rusty. The other players didn’t have an excuse after a busy pre-season programme.
McGeady’s recent history suggests he will be a key weapon for the Black Cats as they bid to win promotion back to the Premier League.
And Sunderland will need him firing on all cylinders soon as they look to get off to a strong start.
- Richard Mennear