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League 1 Spotlight: Sunderland

Tom Hancock profiles the Black Cats.

3 August 2018

Given that they’re in the third tier for just the second time – 1987/88 was the other – in their 139-year history, it will come as no surprise that Sunderland are the only one of the Chairboys’ 23 upcoming opponents who they’ve never faced in the league. In fact, we've yet to meet in any competition.

Recent times at the Stadium of Light have been gloomy, with last season’s bottom-of-the-pile finish in the Championship coming after a decade-long spell in the top flight largely spent treading water. Sunderland have been in freefall and it’s a real shame that a club of their stature should find themselves at this level, but they do look to finally be turning the corner.

The latest takeover, led by former Eastleigh chairman Stewart Donald, has brought an end to the reign of Ellis Short, while the departure of manager Chris Coleman and appointment of Jack Ross have refreshed things on the touchline. An expectedly busy summer of transfer activity has given the squad a new, less familiar look, but regardless of such wholesale changes, Sunderland simply have to be in the running for an immediate return to the second tier. It goes without saying that they don’t belong in League One.

Last season: 24th in Championship

In charge: Jack Ross
Ross is managing for the first time south of the border, having previously held posts in the lower leagues in his native Scotland. The 42-year-old did play in England, spending the 2004/05 campaign with then League One Hartlepool, but made most of his career appearances for Clyde, Falkirk and St Mirren. As Saints boss, he led them to the 2017/18 Scottish Championship title and earned the PFA Scotland Manager of the Year award in doing so, while his first job in management saw him spend just under a year in charge of League One Alloa.

Star player: Bryan Oviedo
Of course, there’s still time for this to change, but for a player of Oviedo’s quality – just for perspective, he played the full 90 minutes in two of Costa Rica’s 2018 World Cup matches – to find himself at this level is unusual, it’s fair to say. The former Everton left-back, who's been with the Black Cats since January last year, had a consistent 2017/18 in spite of the overall disappointment. In a much changed squad with no clear stars, his name is the one that stands out.

Key ins: We all know one of the new arrivals at the Stadium of Light; Luke O’Nien officially signed on Monday for an undisclosed fee. Striker Charlie Wyke has joined from Bradford, while fellow frontman Jerome Sinclair has come in on a season-long loan from Watford. Centre-backs Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan have moved from Peterborough and Burton respectively, with midfielder Dylan McGeouch joining from Hibs and ‘keeper John McLaughlin arriving from their Edinburgh rivals Hearts.

Key outs: Key midfielder Paddy McNair and young striker Joel Asoro have both been sold to Championship clubs, with the former staying in the north east with Middlesbrough and the latter moving to Swansea. Attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri – who netted twice while starring for Tunisia at the World Cup – has also moved for a fee, to Saint-Etienne, as have wingers Fabio Borini and Jeremain Lens, joining AC Milan and Beşiktaş respectively after loan spells last season. The veteran John O’Shea has left for Reading, while fellow centre-back Lamine Koné has joined French top flight side Strasbourg on loan for the season. Former England International Jack Rodwell, who hasn't played for the first team in almost a year, was released from his contract a year early in June.

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