The summer of 2018 has been one of significant change for Sunderland. Last season ended in another relegation and it spelled the end for the ownership, the manager and most of the playing staff. It may be only the second time in the club’s history that they will be playing in the third tier of English football, but Sunderland fans have a lot to be excited about; starting with the season opener against Charlton Athletic.
In the wake of last season, many Sunderland fans eagerly wanted to see the back of most of the squad. The high earners from the Premier League era who wanted away have almost all been sold on and replaced by players more suited to the division the Black Cats now find themselves in. The likes of Wahbi Khazri and Jack Rodwell have had their hefty wages shifted elsewhere as the re-balancing of the books was carried out over the summer break.
Amongst those coming in over the summer were Scottish international goalkeeper John McLaughlin, Peterborough United captain Jack Baldwin and most recently Bradford Striker Charlie Wyke. All three have the makings for top football league players but it is the signing of Wyke which shows the intent of new manager Jack Ross. Wyke found the net on 13 occasions in 23 appearances for the Bantams in League One last season and with a midfield packed with energy now playing behind him; he will surely get the supply line to top this total in the coming season. Sunderland will have to rely on goals elsewhere for the first few weeks of the season, however, as Wyke arrives at the Stadium of Light carrying an injury
He won’t be the only Sunderland player to start the season on the treatment table. Reece James and Tom Flanagan are not expected to be fit, and fellow new boy Dylan McGeouch is a doubt. Duncan Watmore and Aiden McGeady look set to be out for an extended period, the former is continuing his recovery from a second ligament injury in as many years.
Possible starting XI
Love Baldwin Loovens Matthews
Gooch Honeyman O’Nien Maguire
Sunderland’s first League One opponents will make for a tough task. The Addicks won this division back in 2012 and are tipped by many to at least get themselves out of the third division this season. The stadium of Light won’t be the easiest place for teams to visit this season, yet Lee Bowyer will be bringing up his side on the back of an unbeaten preseason campaign which is always good for morale. Like the hosts, Charlton will be without a key new striker. Lyle Taylor, whom could have been playing for the home side this weekend, picked up an injury which rules him out of the season opener.
It will be a good test for Sunderland’s young squad, and I think they will do enough to come away with a hard fought 1-1 draw in this one. I also fancy on-loan Watford striker Jerome Sinclair to open his account.