Pre-season campaigns never seem to be subdued affairs these days.
Even in the States, the build-up to the new American football season has been over-shadowed by San Francisco 49ers quarter-back Colin Kaepernick, whose protest against racial inequality and police brutality has seen him kneel during the national anthem.
That’s a big no-no in a land where they even turn off the music in bars so the clientele can listen to the Star-Spangled Banner if it’s on the box.
But setting aside the politics, pre-season to the upcoming NFL campaign is pretty familiar – wall-to-wall television adverts, special deals on satellite packages and last-minute changes to the fantasy football picks.
This week will have also felt like a mini pre-season back at the Academy of Light. This first international break of the campaign always does, given it comes so ludicrously early on when players haven’t had chance to muster any rhythm before putting their feet up again.
There will be a sense of the season starting over against Everton on Monday night – David Moyes better hope so anyway, as Sunderland cannot afford yet another horrifyingly long wait to get a first win under their belts.
Sunderland fans at least know now what they have been dealt after what was, in truth, a transfer window of far too many “nearly’s”. Ultimately - particularly after the raft of injuries – it just wasn’t quite up to scratch.
In particular, the reliance on a free agent to address Sunderland’s main summer priority of a new centre-forward was a damning outcome late last week.
However, Jason Denayer and Victor Anichebe add to the melting pot at Moyes’ disposal to face the Sunderland manager’s former employers, as will Didier Ndong when he is free from suspension.
Throw in the exit of Jeremain Lens, possible inclusion of Jan Kirchhoff and the end of the uncertainty over Lamine Kone too, and there will be a fresh look about the Black Cats on Monday.
Now we will see what Sunderland are made of under Moyes.
There are no more excuses about needing players. Sunderland have had their chance to address that. It’s put-up or shut-up time.
What might become evident over upcoming weeks is a change of style under Moyes.
The success of the side assembled by Allardyce at the end of last season was built upon being hard to break down, counter-attacking in numbers and giving Jermain Defoe the best possible opportunity to snatch the one goal which would guarantee all three-points.
But even though Moyes has been at the Stadium of Light less than two months, he has already put an emphasis on youth, where he can harness that exuberance into a hard-working pressing side, hence the inclusion of Lynden Gooch in the opening four games and captures of Paddy McNair and Donald Love.
“What I’ve tried to get is a younger group of players to give us more energy,” said Moyes last week.
But gambling on youth is… well, a gamble.
Sunderland were not particularly composed of senior citizens at the end of last season. Younes Kaboul and Jermain Defoe were the only 30-somethings in the side which sealed survival.
It’s admirable to target the long-term, but it’s not something Sunderland tend to do at all well.
A look back at recent history would also tell Moyes that constant changes of style or approach has been an underlying factor in the club’s continued struggles. There hasn’t been a consistent framework for more than five years that has allowed players to grow.
Hopefully that will change under Moyes. His 11 years at Everton certainly suggests he’s supremely capable of laying down solid roots.
Sunderland fans will be cautious though. They’ve heard too many sound-bites about planning for the future. It’s the here and now where they need some joy to get rid of the sense of dread which seems to hang over the club until the last month or two of the season.
The frustration too is that Sunderland had finally enjoyed their first good transfer window since the Steve Bruce era in January, when Sam Allardyce was able to snare Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri.
Moyes and chief executive Martin Bain have plenty of mitigation, but they’ve not been able to follow it up with another shopping spree that ticked all the boxes.
But there’s no opportunity to lick wounds or rue what might have been. When the season recommences after what feels like a false start, then Sunderland need to be putting a win or two on the board.
This club cannot afford to enter the second international break without a Premier League victory for the third year out of four.