George Honeyman on returning Sunderland duo and earning the right to be promotion contenders

Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman.
Sunderland midfielder George Honeyman.
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Sunderland have to earn the right to be serious promotion contenders.

That’s the view of George Honeyman, who says the Black Cats cannot take anything for granted as they look to bounce back from the disappointment of relegation to the Championship after 10-years in the top flight.

Honeyman, who signed a new two-year deal in the summer, will return to pre-season training at the Academy of Light on Thursday along with the rest of the Sunderland squad after a five-week break.

The 22-year-old is expected to play a much more prominent role this time around having broken into the first team squad regularly last season.

Honeyman, a regular for the Under-23 side, made six first team appearances on his way to earning a new deal.

The Sunderland squad will be boosted this season by the return of Duncan Watmore and Paddy McNair, who have both been out with long-term knee injuries.

They have been stepping up their fitness in Portugal as they close in on a return to training and Honeyman says their return is a welcome boost.

"It will be a big boost to get Dunc and Paddy back because they’re going to be two big players for us this year, but I just hope they’ve taken enough sun protection out there because that could set them back a couple of weeks.

"Not only Duncan, but Paddy, being a pale Irishman, I do worry about as well!

"In all seriousness, though, we have the makings of a really good, youthful team and there’s definitely a feeling amongst the players that we can do something this year.

"We want to bounce straight back and I don’t see any reason why we can’t, but we can’t take anything for granted and we have to earn the right to be back in the Premier League.

"We have a fast start to the season and we have to be ready for it."

The first team squad returns to training on Thursday with the club’s Under-23 side back on Wednesday ahead of the entire squad heading to Austria for a five-day training camp.