Lee Johnson targets end to costly injuries as Sunderland's pre-season campaign begins
Lee Johnson says the pre-season period will be vital in avoiding the injuries that proved so costly for the Black Cats last season.
Johnson operated with a threadbare defence for much of the second half of the campaign, with an injury to Dion Sanderson in particular having a major impact on the side.
Though some of those injuries were unavoidable, with both Jordan Willis and Arbenit Xhemajli suffering major knee problems, Johnson is eager to prevent the kind of issues that he believes were initially inevitable as a result of the move to a more aggressive pressing style.
Xhemajli, meanwhile, was on the grass at the Academy of Light on Monday as he continues to make encouraging progress in his recovery.
Johnson has previously said he hopes the defender could play some part in the pre-season programme, though they will understandably be cautious with the 23-year-old after such a serious injury.
Looking ahead to the campaign in general, Johnson said he was determined to banish the memories of that disappointing play-off defeat to Lincoln City in May.
Sunderland’s recruitment will target players capable of implementing that energetic style, and the hope is that it will also produce a robust squad capable of lasting the course of a demanding campaign.
“First of all you've got to embrace last season,” he told safc.com.
"Having had time to reflect it doesn't stop the pain, it just enhances the will to win if that could be anymore.
“That sort of history has now been built to want to deliver even more, if that were possible.
“The starting point is very obviously getting a competitive squad and that's what we're doing now, then the pre-season period lends itself to having to get the players as fit as possible so we're maybe not getting the injuries we had last season.
“I think in particular those muscle injuries, any coach will tell you any of those is almost a personal attack.
“Given the change of football philosophy it's something that can happen but now we've obviously got a chance in the way we recruit, the way we coach, and that extra coaching time will be good fun.
“I'm looking forward to designing exactly what we set out to achieve.
“Any new player that comes in will hopefully fit into that and their natural attributes will work towards that system.”
The summer period has seen investment in a number of areas behind the scenes, including the Academy of Light and its pitches.
Johnson says there is still much work to be done as the League One kick-off begins to near.
“I'm excited because I know how important the pre-season period is,” Johnson said.
“We've got to get a lot of things right.
“This club is a do-upper, whether that's doing up the buildings inside, the squad needing the rejig that we're going to give it, or whether it's adding quality staff to the backroom team that we've already got.
“It's a big job for the powers to be, to get this great club to where it needs to be.”