The Sunderland squad better get used to the intense pressure cooker on Wearside with promotion a must
One game in and there is already pressure on Jack Ross and the Sunderland squad.
Unfair? Perhaps. But promotion is the aim and an opening day 1-1 draw at home to Oxford United was not part of the script.
Fans flocked expecting to see a fresh approach, with four new signings starting.
Sunderland produced more than 30 crosses but managed only a handful of efforts on goal, familiar issues again visible.
An all-to familiar draw and an opposition team getting their noses in front before time-wasting from as early as the 20th minute.
Sunderland lacked the craft and guile to cut open the Us defence, with Aiden McGeady, Chris Maguire and Duncan Watmore all on the bench, not yet fit enough to start.
With Sunderland having failed to win promotion at the first attempt, the pressure-cooker will only intensify. Sunderland can’t afford a third season in the third tier.
In the aftermath of the home draw, Ross and the players spoke about a need to be more ruthless, at both ends of the pitch.
Will Grigg isn’t firing, the service minimal, but he also isn’t making the runs you’d like or expect. Surely more could have been done with those crosses into the penalty area.
Pressure to perform and score will only increase. The Oxford goal was utterly avoidable, Conor McLaughlin caught in possession after a poor pass from George Dobson.
That aside, the duo performed okay on their home debuts.
But the pressure won’t be going away this season.
The squad has lost a fair chunk of experience with Lee Cattermole, Bryan Oviedo and George Honeyman leaving Wearside.
Three players that have been used to dealing with the pressure, although admittedly with varying degrees of success.
How Sunderland could have done with a morale-boosting win to kick off the new campaign.
Instead, they now face a difficult game away at Ipswich and a home game against last season’s old foes Portsmouth.
The squad will have to prove quickly they have the mettle to cope with the pressures of playing for this historic club as it looks to climb back up the leagues.
One thing is for sure, the pressure won’t be going away.