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The state of play with every senior Sunderland player explained as pre-season begins on Wearside

Sunderland will return to pre-season training on Wednesday just over a month after their win at Wembley, and with just five weeks until the new Championship campaign kicks off.

By Phil Smith
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 1:03 pm

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The players will report for the standard testing and fitness work, before they begin to step up their preparations for the return to the second tier.

So what kind of squad will be there on day one and how might this develop over the next few weeks?

We run you through here….

Alex Neil welcomes his Sunderland players back to the Academy of Light on Wednesday

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ANTHONY PATTERSON

With Sunderland still needing to recruit at least one more goalkeeper, Patterson has a golden opportunity to kick on from his stellar end to the last campaign and secure that number one spot for the start of the campaign. It’s thought he is one of the players the club want to secure to a new contract this summer, such was the pace of his development in the second half of the season. His reflexes and shot-stopping were never in doubt, and now he is developing the all-round maturity to compliment it. Exciting times.

NIALL HUGGINS

Huggins revealed in April that he was hoping to play some part in pre-season after an immensely unfortunate first campaign on Wearside, when a stress fracture of the back was followed by the same injury in both of his heels. So he will undoubtedly need time to get up to full speed and will not be rushed. Even from brief glimpses last year, it was clear he has a lot of talent when fit.

TRAI HUME

Hume’s game time was limited after his arrival from Linfield, but it was notable how highly Alex Neil spoke of his promise and training-ground work, which was rewarded with a start in a key game against Rotherham United. With defensive options currently extremely limited, the early weeks of pre-season offer a big opportunity to kick on again. Hume will need to play this season, which makes you wonder if a loan could yet come into play towards the end of the window, but the chance is there to make an impression.

DANNY BATTH

For Batth it will be a case of Sunderland hoping he can simply pick up where he left off. Outstanding in the play-off campaign, he has one year left on his deal and has invaluable experience of the second tier.

DENNIS CIRKIN

Cirkin grew significantly over his first full campaign in senior football, ending it in excellent form and underlining his long-term potential after a tough winter period. He will be a key player for Sunderland this year and though not yet confirmed, you wonder if he is one who could be rewarded with a new deal if he continues on his current trajectory as a player. He has two years left on the deal he signed to join last summer.

CORRY EVANS

Evans was a key figure in the run-in and has over 200 Championship appearances to his name, meaning he has an important squad role to play on and off the pitch during what will likely be a season of transition.

LEON DAJAKU

Dajaku’s loan from Union Berlin automatically became permanent when Sunderland won promotion. Illness meant the German was unable to play a major part under Alex Neil, though one substitute cameo against Crewe drewe praise from the head coach. Direct and with plenty of quality, the 21-year-old has a lot to offer if Neil can draw more consistency from his performances. He now represents a fairly significant investment on the club’s part and so they will want to grow his value further.

ELLIOT EMBLETON

Despite often having to settle for an impact substitute role, Embleton’s selection at Wembley was a reflection of how highly Neil rates his abilities. That gives him an excellent chance of regular football in his first full Championship season. Technically he is clearly ready for the step up, and the key will be in ensuring he can step up to the other demands the rise in intensity will bring.

LUKE O’NIEN

After an injury-hit first half of the last campaign O’Nien settled well into his midfield role, bringing an energy and physicality that will be important this season. Should be able to hit the ground running from day one of pre-season.

CARL WINCHESTER

Winchester returned to fitness just before the play-off final, meaning he has a good opportunity to push his claims for first-team football in his first campaign at Championship level. He has one year left on his current deal and his versatility could be important for Neil, especially as the squad comes together over the next month or so.

ALEX PRITCHARD

Sunderland want to keep some continuity from last season as they adjust to the Championship and Pritchard’s experience at the level makes him a key part of that. After an excellent first campaign on Wearside, he will be eager to prove he still has what it takes to thrive at this level. Few who watched him regularly last season would bet against it.

JACK DIAMOND

Diamond had spells training with the first team during his successful second loan at Harrogate Town, which means that Neil is aware of his potential. This pre-season period will be vital for the 22-year-old, though, in proving that he is ready for a regular place in a Championship squad. The opportunity is all the more obvious because while this is an area in which Sunderland need to recruit, they have yet to do so.

DAN NEIL

It’s a big pre-season for Neil, who had an outstanding breakthrough campaign last time out but struggled for regular minutes in its very latter stages. After a brutal workload through the first three quarters his new head coach felt he was at risk of burnout, and was then reluctant to change a winning combination in midfield. Neil was scouted by big clubs relentlessly last season and there will be interest, but Sunderland want him to push on again here. Hopefully he will be refreshed and able to do exactly that.

JAY MATETE

After a very solid first six months on Wearside, Matete will look to kick on and adjust to the demands of the Championship this season. An excellent ball-carrier and tenacious midfielder, he has the attributes to make the step up over a period of time.

ROSS STEWART

Given that his season only concluded a week or so ago due to international commitments, it seems likely that Stewart will be given a period of rest before returning to the Academy of Light. There has been much speculation of his future and there are a number of teams interested in signing the Scot, but the club remain keen on handing him a new long-term deal.

A POTENTIALLY CRUCIAL TRIO

Sunderland have offered new deals to Bailey Wright, Lynden Gooch and Patrick Roberts after their important roles in the club’s promotion last season. As it stands, none of the trio have put pen to paper in time for pre-season. In Wright’s case this is little surprise, as he was until very recently on international duty with Australia (securing qualification for the World Cup) and will now be on a summer break. Gooch is back on Wearside after his summer break, and it remaisn to be seen if and how quickly Sunderland can strike a deal to keep him and/or Roberts.