Tony GIllan: Respect will be key if Sunderland are to pip Portsmouth, Ipswich and Rotherham to promotion

We’re in the last week of June now and the metaphorical drumming of fingers continues as we wait for the football season to start.

Monday, 24th June 2019, 7:00 pm
Updated Monday, 24th June 2019, 8:00 pm
This factor will prove key for Sunderland in the promotion race

Last week was relatively eventful for the close-season, with some early business at Sunderland. Reece James is off to Doncaster Rovers for the customary undisclosed fee. It was a peculiar move.

With all due respect to Rovers, James’ motives aren’t obvious. The move came days after he had agreed to stay on Wearside for another year. His initial contract would have expired on 1 July.

Sunderland, who signed him for nothing in 2018, persuaded him to trigger an extension clause then almost immediately sold him, clicking a few useful quid. Clever or accidental?

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Three days after the transfer Doncaster’s manager, Grant McCann, who James said “sold the club to me”, left for Hull City. Oddsbodkins.

Oh well. Good luck to James; a solid enough full-back, although his departure is not a pivotal moment for the club he leaves behind.

Probably of more interest to supporters was the publication of the fixture list. Consensus seems to be that it’s a “tough start”. Let’s hope that isn’t the mindset.

No opposition should be taken lightly. But it’s still the third tier and Sunderland should believe they can win any game in this division. In fact they can.

Let’s not be silly. That isn’t the same as saying that they should finish the season on 138 points (some of the more absurdly demanding think that anything below 100 would be an outrage). I’m just saying that any game considered in isolation should be deemed winnable.

I believe that Sunderland’s problems last season were mainly between the ears. Positivity is the answer; which means their first thought upon taking the lead should be how to extend it – not worrying about how to keep it.

Respect all opposition. Yet nor should Sunderland forget that no League One opposition will be disappointed with a draw against them.

Tough start? They play everyone twice and that’s that. Get on with it.