Ross Stewart delivers an exciting Sunderland prediction and reveals his plans ahead of 2021/22 League One season
Ross Stewart has predicted that Sunderland will become a ‘really tough’ team to beat next season – if they replicate elements of their fine performance against Lincoln City.
And the striker has also promised supporters that there is more to come from him after a stop-start beginning to his time on Wearside.
Stewart netted the opening goal in the Black Cats’ 2-1 win over Lincoln in the second leg of their play-off semi-final second leg against Lincoln, but the result was not enough to take the club to Wembley for the second time in the space of three months.
But despite the ultimate disappointment, there were some real positives to be taken from the display – and in particular Sunderland’s first-half display.
As the hosts pressed high up the field, the Imps struggled to deal with the pressure applied by Stewart and strike partner Charlie Wyke.
And if Sunderland can replicate that level of performance – and benefit from a vocal home support – then Stewart believes that the side will prove a difficult opponent.
“Lincoln really struggled with the way we played in that first half with the high press, the high tempo,” he said.
"If we can do that in the majority of games next season we're going to be a really tough team to beat. Hopefully by doing that we can be challenging right at the top.
"The fans, that's what they can do to a team. Having them back in the stadium gave everybody a lift and you could see that.
"Having that energy, you could see the fans making the noise and helping the boys and pushing us up the pitch.”
And while there is undoubtedly more to come from Sunderland as a team, so too does Stewart feel there is more to come from himself.
The Scot has netted three times since his January arrival from Ross County, with injuries curtailing his progress.
But with those problems hopefully behind him, the striker is hoping to show supporters the best of his abilities ahead of the 2021/22 campaign.
“It's been a frustrating six months with it being stop-start,” admitted Stewart,
"I came with an injury, got back, then had the other niggles and I didn't really get in my flow.
"But with the break now I'll use that well to recover and get myself right and come back and have a really good pre-season. That'll help me kick on next season and hopefully the fans can see the best of me.”
One major benefit that will be afforded to Stewart and his teammates prior to the new campaign will be a more conventional pre-season.
With last year’s preparations disrupted due to COVID, this season will see players able to be put through their paces in a traditional fashion.
"I'll take the time off but when I come back I'll be refreshed and ready to go,” said Stewart of pre-season.
"Pre-season is an important part of the season to get yourself right and ready and in shape to go. It's always one of them - it will be tough, but it needs to be done.”