Sunderland's big problem exposed as Jack Ross sent clear transfer target message: six things we learnt from Charlton play-off defeat
Sunderland suffered a heartbreaking late defeat to Charlton Athletic in the League One play-off final, but there are plenty of lessons for Jack Ross' side to take.
With the side now having narrowly missed out on promotion, focus immediately turns to the new campaign and another term in the third tier.
And Ross will have learnt plenty about his side - and where they must improve - from the defeat at Wembley.
Here's six things we learnt from the clash:
Creativity costs Sunderland
As it has done several times for Sunderland this season, a lack of clinicality and creativity cost the Black Cats at Wembley.
On numerous occasions this term the side have dominated and seen plenty of the ball but failed to trouble the opposition goalkeeper.
The same was the case at Wembley where, having applied all the pressure in the opening and closing 20 minutes, Sunderland failed to seriously trouble Dillon Phillips.
That’s something that will need to be addressed next season as a matter of priority.
Jack Ross can’t be accused of being too negative here
Some Sunderland fans have questioned Ross’ tactics this campaign, with some selections perceived to be slightly too negative.
But no such claims can be levelled at the Black Cats’ boss after this game.
1-0 up early on and with Max Power down injured, perhaps the easy - and definitely safe - option would have been to bring on a more defensive-minded player.
Ross instead introduced Lewis Morgan, who proceeded to pose Sarr some real questions. The Charlton man was then withdrawn at the break.
Later the Scot elected to withdraw Chris Maguire for WIll Grigg in attacking change and while that didn’t quite work out as planned, his bold approach must be commended.
No questions can be asked about commitment
Sunderland may have come up short, but no questions can be asked about the club’s commitment.
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Lee Cattermole and Bryan Oviedo - two players who arguably could have left at various points this season - broke into tears on the final whistle.
Grant Leadbitter was visibly emotional, while the usually lively Chris Maguire slumped to the floor.
This squad cares about the club, and that hasn’t been the case in recent years. That shouldn’t be forgotten amidst the disappointment of missing out on promotion.
You’re never too far from takeover talk
There’s new takeover talk on a regular basis from the Stadium of Light currently - and that looks set to ramp up again after Mark Campbell’s appearance at Wembley.
The US stockbroker, who is reportedly heading-up a consortium interested in investing in the club, was pictured alongside Stewart Donald at the national stadium.
Whatever happens over the next few weeks on Wearside, it’s near-certain that takeover and investment talk will continue to dominate the discussion.
This MUST act as a catalyst
Losing at Wembley once in a season is bad enough, let alone twice, and Sunderland have to channel this disappointment in the right way.
Charlton missed out on promotion last season and bounced back this term - and now the Black Cats must follow suit.
That is easier said than done, of course, but there can be no time to wallow. Sunderland MUST use this disappointment in the right way.
Jack Ross’ transfer priority must be clear
Now Sunderland are guaranteed to be staying in League One, a clear recruitment strategy has to be to seek some more physical players.
Too many times this season have the Black Cats been out-muscled and, while they are technically better than many of their third tier counterparts, the glaring lack of physicality needs to be addressed.
Ross will no doubt know that himself and will have suitable targets identified. Such an injection of power could prove key to a promotion push next year.