Sunderland face a tough start to League One campaign but history shows not to panic when it comes to promotion dreams
After a handful of warm-up friendlies including the win over Harrogate Town, the real stuff gets going next weekend with the Carabao Cup visit of Hull City, followed a week later by the big one as the league season gets underway.
Bristol Rovers will be the visitors then – bookending a six month gap since the last league game against the same club.
Beating Bristol Rovers can’t be taken for granted – as Sunderland found when losing to them last time – but after the visit of the Pirates the next four fixtures are all particularly demanding ones.
Phil Parkinson’s men face Oxford, Peterborough, Charlton and then Blackpool who I am hearing good things about in pre-season.
Now managed by Neil Critchley; the former Liverpool Under 23 coach who Jurgen Klopp entrusted to look after youthful sides in domestic cup competitions for Liverpool last season, the Tangerines appear to be building a side built on pace and are expected to be in the promotion mix.
If Sunderland can emerge from this opening group of fixtures in the leading pack themselves they will have done well.
As we saw with Ipswich last season leading the league early on doesn’t guarantee success. The Tractor Boys were top with 33 points from 15 games on Bonfire night last term, yet ended up below Sunderland.
On the other hand when Sunderland last won promotion in 2006-07 they were in the bottom half as 2006 closed but ended up topping the table.
That was when they went on a stunning 17 match run of 14 wins and three draws as Jonny Evans arrived to partner Nyron Nosworthy in central defence and Carlos Edwards was brought in and proceeded to rip up the right wing.
Going back further into history, in Sunderland’s best ever season of 1912-13 when they won the league and reached the cup final, they lost five of the first seven games and only drew the other two.
Then it was the signings of goalkeeper Joe Butler and defender Charlie Gladwin that helped transform the team.
Hopefully some of the new faces arriving at the Stadium of Light can help Sunderland this time round and if Will Grigg’s promising display at Gateshead last can signal that player finding his best form he could be rejuvenated in the way Eric Gates was as Sunderland won this division in 1988.
There are lots of questions to be answered which is all part of the fun of a new season. Hopefully before long some supporters can even get into the games to see for themselves!
Answers to all the questions of every season Sunderland have ever played can be found in the new book. Sunderland: The Absolute Record.
This is your last chance to include your name (Or the name of someone you are buying it for) in the book.
Order by 31 August to do this. Go to www.safctheabsoluterecord.co.uk This 400 page large format hardback will be the most in-depth book ever published on SAFC. It costs £30.