Sunderland has squad to compete on all fronts this season insists defender

Reece James in action
Reece James in action
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Reece James believes Sunderland have the strength-in-depth to be able to compete on all fronts in a demanding season.

The priority for Jack Ross and his squad is promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt.

But the Black Cats are also having to juggle their league commitments with the Checkatrade Trophy, a first team competition for third tier sides, plus the FA Cup which will see Sunderland enter at the first round stage in November.

Sunderland were dumped out of the League Cup in the first round by Sheffield Wednesday, one of only two defeats this season.

Following a rare weekend off due to international call-ups, Sunderland return to league action when they travel to 17th-placed Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.

The start of another demanding schedule with a trip to promotion rivals Doncaster Rovers next Tuesday in a busy end to October.

James will start with Bryan Oviedo serving the second of his three-game ban and Denver Hume still a month away after suffering a knee injury at Coventry City.

“There are a lot of games to play, with the league and then the cup competitions,” said James.

“You need to make sure you’ve got a big squad, and we’ve got that.

“Even with all the injuries, we’ve still got a very good side that can play league games and win those, then come into the [Checkatrade Trophy] competition and still win them too.”

Ross was without 14 players due to injury, suspension and international call-ups for the Checkatrade win over Carlisle United last time out.

Yet the Scot was still able to name a strong team, including Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady.

“Momentum keeps things going and it’s about striking the right balance of keeping that, with also keeping people fresh.

“I think the manager has done that well with bringing young lads in as well and giving them the opportunity to be around the first team squad and first team games.

“The younger lads can look at the likes of Chris and Aiden who’ve been playing week-in, week-out, and are still out there giving their all. That’s the team ethic that we’ve got.”

Summer signing James is enjoying life on Wearside under Ross.

“I’m absolutely loving it so far,” he added. “The club itself is unbelievable. You only have to look at the stadium and the training facilities to appreciate how big it actually is.

“It should never be in the division it is in, but it’s up to us now to get us out of it.”