The clear message Alex Pritchard had for Sunderland in his honest verdict on Championship return

Alex Pritchard says Sunderland will have to stick together in a season that is likely to bring 'ups and downs'.

Pritchard made a superb start to the season against Coventry City as the Black Cats secured a 1-1 draw on their Championship return, and will have a key role to play as a young squad looks to consolidate in the second tier.

The 29-year-old said an inexperienced squad will need patience and backing as a strong second-half showing from their opponents underlined the scale of the challenge ahead.

"This club is a massive club, was in the Premier League for God knows how long, but obviously you've got to remember as well where you are at this moment in time,"he told Sky Sports.

Alex Pritchard impressed against Coventry City

"We've been in League One for four years and it's our first time back, loads of new players, players playing at the level for the first time. Stick by us.

"It's going to be a difficult season, we had ups and downs last year, big ups and downs, and it's going to be the same this year. We've just got to stick together and we'll give it our all."

Pritchard said there were positive signs from his side as they competed with a team expected to challenge in the top half this season, but added there were clear areas where the Black Cats would have to improve.

"They probably had the majority of the ball, they're a team that have been together for a good few years now and we've obviously just come up from League One," he said.

"It was always going to be a good test and shows the level we're at, we took an early chance and definitely had more chances, we could have put the game to bed. But then so did they.

"We have one lapse in concentration, the boys turns and drives in but that's Championship level, if you give people chances they're going to put them away. We've said there, it's a good taste, we'll keep our heads up and we'll go again next week.

"When they're 1-0 down they're going to go for it, they've got nothing to lose. On the other hand, if we get on balls and turn then we're going to get away because they're committing people forward.

"I just think after the goal we came off the boil a little bit, we didn't play our football as we did in the first 15-20 minutes," he added.

"Especially in the second half, our passing wasn't as crisp, we were a bit more loose, they probably got on more second balls. That's probably the disappointing thing because we were really good at that last year, so that's something to look at the video this week and see what we can do better."

Pritchard also spoke of his determination to make a mark at Championship level having dropped into League One with Sunderland last season.

"It was a difficult moment for me personally, coming off the back of leaving a club," he said.

"You've just got to stick in, I gave it my all to get back here and play at this level. Now I'm here, I want to stay here."