Sunderland legend has this warning ahead of the visit of Oxford United

The time since Sunderland’s hugely disappointing play-off final defeat to Charlton seems to have flown by and now Sunderland have to face up to the reality of yet another season of third tier football.

Thursday, 1st August 2019, 7:30 pm
Sunderland host Oxford United at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Sunderland host Oxford United at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

All summer I have been wondering how different it would have been if only Sunderland had triumphed at Wembley instead of falling at the final hurdle.

We would have been looking forward to games against old foes like Leeds United and Middlesbrough, while also locking horns with other big clubs like Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Derby which would have excited the fans and probably attracted even bigger crowds than last season’s phenomenal turnout.

Instead, clubs like Southend, Fleetwood and Accrington will be heading to Wearside again and with all due respect to those clubs, the fact is the novelty of playing unfamiliar clubs has well and truly worn off and they simply can’t have the same pulling power.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

So Oxford are Sunderland’s first opponents in this second consecutive season in League One and I have no doubt their players will raise their game playing at the Stadium of Light in front of the biggest crowd they’ll experience all season and make things as difficult as they can for Jack Ross’ men.

Not only will Sunderland have to overcome fired up opponents, but as they’ll be overwhelming favourites, the pressure will be huge to get the season off to a flyer.

When expectations are low, the pressure is off.

I recall in my playing career going to places like Liverpool, Manchester United or Arsenal, no one expected much - so even in defeat as long as you gave everything and put up a good show - the fans would pat you on the back and say unlucky.

However, I also know through experience a winnable home game is something different altogether - fail to secure all three points and no one pats you on the back, no one says you were unlucky, even if you have hit the woodwork three times and gone down to an offside goal - that’s not the way it works.

So the players know what they must do on Saturday, deal with the pressure of expectation as only a win will satisfy the fans, especially with two tough games to follow.