Fan blog: Sunderland announce arrival in "dangerous" Championship with respectable Coventry City point

And so it begins – again.

Sunderland returned to the Championship with a bang on Sunday afternoon: a 1-1 draw with Coventry City at the Stadium of Light announcing, to the rest of the division, their arrival back on their first step to where they ultimately belong.

And by all accounts, this was more than an optimistic showing from Alex Neil’s side.

The Black Cats can simply never be expected to challenge for the top places in this division, in this campaign: Alex Neil has deemed the club’s rise back to the top as a “sustainable” one, not a rash one.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Sunderland player Elliot Embleton in action during the Sky Bet Championship between Sunderland and Coventry City at Stadium of Light on July 31, 2022 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

So, a point against a side that Neil deems will be challenging for the play-offs this time around is probably not a bad opener.

For the opening 30-35 minutes or so, the Black Cats were very much in the box seat in this season's curtain raiser: their game-plan was right on the money, they defended solidly, dictated play in midfield and looked dangerous upon the counter.

Jack Clarke’s opener, a perfect example of just how Alex Neil set his side up to play.

A quick one-two in the centre of the park between Pritchard and Embleton freed up space for the former to float a lovely ball to the right wing for Lynden Gooch.

The American-turned-Mackem is the first to recognise his own faults and criticism, but in his assist for this opener, he deserves the up-most credit. By dummying his man, it enabled the wing-back just that extra yard over Jake Bidwell to tease a delightful cross to be met by Jack Clarke.

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A moment of pure lift-off inside an already-giddy Stadium of Light.

Sunderland deserved this moment, just like they had deserved that exact moment under the Wembley arch. This one was for the 40,851 inside the Stadium of Light and the many more at home, but more importantly, this one announced their arrival back to the second tier.

For this club, in League One, this 30-minute period may have been enough: Sunderland were simply just too powerful in this early stage, but this isn’t League One.

The Championship is a dangerous league if you sit back and switch off for just one moment.

Before Viktor Gyokeres’ 84th-minute equaliser, there was no doubt the warning signs were there. A lapse in concentration from Dan Neil was somehow not punished uncharacteristically by Matty Godden.

Yet even before that moment, Sunderland were slightly on the ropes. They were struggling to deal with the Coventry press, and the energy levels were reducing, before Gyokeres struck with a thunderbolt.

In this league, teams will punish you for those errors. That’s why it’s such a clinical division, and the sooner Alex Neil’s side can adapt to this alteration, the better.

But still, this was a day massively overweighed by the positives.

Sunderland announced their arrival in the Championship, and this was a very optimistic arrival.