Stephen Elliott: These will prove the key players for Sunderland this season ahead of Wigan Athletic opener
Well, here we go again.
Who would have thought that Sunderland would be beginning their fourth season on the bounce in the third tier?
It’s not where this club is structured to be situated - as we are all aware of – but for Lee Johnson and his squad the seemingly unfeasible task of getting promoted begins once more this weekend.
There has not been loads of new signings but the ones that have come in have proven quality at a higher level.
I feel that both Alex Pritchard and Corry Evans will have to stay out of the treatment room if they are going to be successful here.
They both need some prolonged game time to get that match sharpness back.
This has proven to be difficult over recent times for both players but a fresh start at this club could be all the medicine they need.
Callum Doyle looks like he can become a top player but we have to be careful not to put so much burden on his young shoulders.
He is only 17, however if he continues to show what we have seen from him so far he will prove to be a top loan signing.
Pre-season has had a lot of positives.
In the majority of the games we have seen Sunderland play with a good tempo, on the front foot and in the opposition’s half.
This was again evident at the Stadium of Light on Friday night against Hull City.
Elliot Embleton really looks like he could be a catalyst for Sunderland if they are going to put in a serious promotion push this campaign. He has looked very confident in the games so far.
Spending last season on loan at Blackpool seems to have done him the world of good.
He was a very important cog in their promotion push and I am hoping with that experience under his belt it will only benefit the Sunderland squad if they do find themselves in the mix towards the business end.
Aiden McGeady signing back on the dotted line was important too. He has proven quality and despite his age I feel once again he will be the go-to guy when those moments of magic are needed in tight games.
Ross Stewart has impressed me every time I have seen him play.
There will be a big onus on him to get goals, especially with Charlie Wyke not being around any more.
I believe he is more than capable of scoring goals with the likes of McGeady and Embleton in the supply line. He may need some help from elsewhere and maybe that help hasn’t arrived in the building yet.
There is no doubt that some more additions are needed.
I’m sure Lee Johnson and his recruitment team are aware of this. It will be a very competitive division this season with some big clubs in the mix and I believe it is vital that Sunderland can get off to a good start.
A good start could be the difference in getting possible signings over the line.
Wigan won’t be easy as they have invested heavily in their squad and with Max Power and Wyke coming back to prove a few points it has the makings of being a cracking game.