How Sunderland compared in League One this time last season - league standings, form and line-ups

Sunderland have enjoyed a brilliant start to the 2021/22 campaign.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 2:32 pm
Lee Johnson Sunderland AFC 1-0 Bolton Wanderers FC EFL1 Stadium of Light 25-09-2021. Picture by FRANK REID.

Sunderland currently sit in second place in League One – only a point off top and with two games in hand over leaders Plymouth Argyle.

With the Black Cats’ new owners, Lee Johnson and some brilliant young talents in the squad, promotion back to the Championship feels like a real possibility this time round.

We are only around a quarter of a way into the season but there is a feeling of positivity and excitement around the city after enjoying a start that has seen them spend a majority of the past few months at the very top of the table.

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We decided to take a look at Sunderland’s start to the 2020/21 campaign and compare it to how they are doing right now – looking at the league standings, form and the line-ups.

League standings

12 games into Sunderland’s 2020/21 League One campaign left them in eighth place.

Following a 1-1 draw with Doncaster Rovers in November 2020, Sunderland had 22 points – five points off top.

In fact, Sunderland were as close to AFC Wimbledon in mid-table as they were to Hull City in first place.


Phil Parkinson’s side lost twice in their opening 12 matches – just like this season – with both coming at home against Portsmouth and MK Dons.

However, it was draws against Bristol Rovers, Charlton Athletic, Rochdale and Doncaster Rovers that knocked them down the table, leaving them with six wins in comparison to this season’s nine.

Under Lee Johnson Sunderland have played out only one draw this season, however the League One side should certainly have taken all three points given they were 2-0 up until the 81st minute.

As well as fewer draws and more wins proving the difference so far, their goalscoring form over the last few months has also been a vital boost in their position at the top of the table.

Despite conceding two more goals in their opening 12 fixtures compared to last season (10), Sunderland have scored an impressive eight goals more than they had done during the previous campaign.

The Black Cats biggest win during the start of the previous campaign were 2-0 victories over Oxford United, Swindon Town and Gillingham (all away trips), while they have enjoyed 5-0 and 4-0 wins in the past month over Cheltenham Town (H) and Crewe Alexandra (A) respectively.


Sunderland’s current line-up has dramatically changed since Phil Parkinson was in charge this time last year.

As previously mentioned, the Black Cats’ twelfth match of the 2020/21 season was a trip to the Keepmoat Stadium where they faced Darren Moore’s Doncaster.

Remi Matthews

The former Bolton Wanderers keeper endured a difficult spell on Wearside – just like a majority of the goalkeepers that have signed for Sunderland since the days of Vito Mannone and Jordan Pickford.

Lee Johnson’s side have spent a majority of the past year with Lee Burge in net, however the arrival of Ron-Thorben Hoffman has brought great excitement given his superb performances in recent weeks.

The German has pulled off some excellent saves and has rapidly become a hero amongst the fans.

Conor McLaughlin, Bailey Wright, Tom Flanagan

Tom Flanagan’s time in the north east had been rather underwhelming up until this season but the Northern Ireland international has been absolutely brilliant and is easily one of the first names on the teamsheet.

Conor McLaughlin’s ‘replacement' in that line-up comes in the form of a 17-year-old future England star in Callum Doyle – a breath of fresh air and someone Sunderland fans will be praying stays on loan for another year after this season.

Meanwhile Wright has dropped down the pecking order and will occasionally feature towards the end of a match to see the game out.

Luke O’Nien, Grant Leadbitter, Josh Scowen, Denver Hume

Sunderland have stuck with four at the back this season and it has proven the right decision, however the Black Cats would often play O’Nien and Hume as wing-backs during the 2020/21 campaign.

O’Nien had spent a majority of his time on Wearside playing in a right-back position given Sunderland’s lack of senior full-backs but this season he has proved exactly why he should be starting in midfield.

Despite a poor showing against Gillingham that saw him give away a penalty, the former Wycombe Wanderers man has been superb and similarly another midfielder that has taken his place at right-back – Carl Winchester – is having an unbelievable season.

After struggling in the full-back position for so long, Sunderland also brought in Dennis Cirkin and Niall Huggins from Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United respectively and the pair have also shone during their time with the club.

Grant Leadbitter and Josh Scowen both departed in the summer and academy products Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil have taken their spots.

The duo have proven to be a huge upgrade on the choice of midfielders Sunderland have had in previous seasons, with many fans predicting Neil to be sporting an England shirt in the future.

Chris Maguire, Charlie Wyke, Lynden Gooch

Chris Maguire was a fan’s favourite during his time at the Stadium of Light and was one name that many were disappointed to see released from the club over the summer.

However, as the 32-year-old departed, the likes of Alex Pritchard, Leon Dajaku and Nathan Broadhead arrived – each of whom have enjoyed positive starts to their Sunderland careers.

Lynden Gooch remains with the club he joined as a teenager, however injuries and his recent form has seen him drop down the picking order and it will be difficult for him to force his way back into the starting XI once he returns.

After 12 games last season Charlie Wyke had scored four league goals.

The Wigan Athletic striker enjoyed a successful season on Wearside last time out, scoring 26 in the league, however Ross Stewart is currently flying ahead with nine in the opening 12 fixtures.

Lee Johnson has previously claimed the Scotsman has the potential to compete in the Premier League after such a brilliant start to the campaign.