'You don’t end up in League One by accident' - Sheffield Wednesday writer gives honest verdict on Sunderland ahead of huge League One play-off clash

Sheffield Wednesday writer Joe Crann from the Sheffield Star gives his honest verdict on Sunderland before the sides go head-to-head in the League One play-offs.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 4:33 pm

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I’ve obviously watched Sunderland play for years… I remember players like Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn in the Premier League. And I think I do draw comparisons between the Black Cats and Sheffield Wednesday.

Both are old, historic football clubs that have fallen on hard times. Both have incredible fanbases that still show up in their numbers despite now playing in the third tier of English football. And both will probably feel that they shouldn’t really be where they are now.

But of course, they should.

Ross Stewart celebrates after scoring against Cambridge. Picture by FRANK REID

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You don’t end up in League One by accident. Lots of things in football lie, but the league table isn’t one of them. Sunderland and Wednesday, unfortunately, are exactly where they should be.

Anyway, onto the present day… From what I’ve seen of this Sunderland team this season, they’re a bit of an enigma. At one point they looked like they were breezing through, then a little while later they were out of the play-offs completely.

I’m glad they got back into the top six, though. I do like Sunderland, and I think watching the Netflix documentary has endeared me towards them more, to be honest. The fans especially.

I know Ross Stewart hasn’t been in the best of form – by his standards – of late, but his goal return this season is still remarkable, and Wednesday have seen first-hand how devastating he can be.

Alex Pritchard has looked handy, and I’ve been very impressed by young Callum Doyle. I do think Wednesday edge Sunderland on experience, and have the quality to progress, but they’re facing a strong opposition – and the run of form recently just proves that.

Oh yeah, it’s also worth noting that the press food at Sunderland is the best I’ve had away from Hillsborough this season.

It was the only shining light on a truly miserable trip to the Stadium of Light late last year, and I’m very much looking forward to what they’ve got in store on Friday.

I’ve no doubt that this tie will still be 100% up for grabs when the Hillsborough game rolls around – so the first leg is all about the two teams putting down a marker. May the best side win.