Gary Rowell: Celtic farce can’t be ignored – teams should fear coming to Wearside if Sunderland want quick return

Simon Grayson has a big job on his hands
Simon Grayson has a big job on his hands
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Sunderland and Derby County have the privilege of kicking off the football season on Friday night in the Championship curtain raiser but I think both sets of fans will believe this is a fixture that should be played in the Premier League.

In Derby’s case they have been in the second tier for a number of years now.

If Sunderland are to avoid that fate then Simon Grayson’s biggest job could be getting inside the heads of players and giving them a winning mentality, especially at home where we have to make the Stadium of Light a fortress again.

Teams should fear coming to Wearside but in recent years it has been too easy for them.

In that respect a good start to the season will help in terms of confidence and morale but the fixture list hasn’t been kind with tough early fixtures making it even more important that we get the season off to a flyer with a win against Derby.

Pre-season matches are notoriously unreliable as indicators of how the season will go but the Celtic game was so bad it can’t be ignored or dismissed as just an off day in a meaningless friendly.

It was supposed to be a celebration of 20 years of the Stadium of Light but Sunderland managed to turn it into a horror show and put a huge dampener on the new season when everybody should be excited and looking forward to it.

The penalty incident summed Sunderland up. Two players squabbling over who takes it, then missing, can you imagine if that happens in a league game and costs us points? It never looks good and needs sorting out.

The Derby game is the first step of a marathon, a long gruelling season lies ahead, and ever player must have the work ethic and desire to compete for 46 games – if not we have no chance of a quick return.