Welp, here we go again. 274 days, 46 games and fuck knows how many arguments about who should play at centre-half, who’s the worst referee in the division and whether or not Stewart Donald has any money. All now await. Yes, that’s right, ‘Sunderland in League One’ is back for a second series and, baby, it’s like we’ve never been apart.
Maybe that’s because we barely have. Just 69 days have elapsed since we went to Wembley and, true to form lasting two generations, bollocksed it all up. Ten months of blood, sweat and beers culminated in agony under the Arch, as Charlton went up and we, well, didn’t. If someone could arrange for Albert Arthur Moxey to pay the home of English football a visit before we’re next dragged there, it would be much appreciated.
Time waits for no man and nor does a new season. So here we sit, like Simba on the ledge, quietly gazing out at all before us. Front and centre and bathed in sunlight sit Oxford United, offering (hopefully) easy prey. The U’s snatched two 1-1 draws against us last year – who didn’t? – but look a rather weaker prospect this time around. Loan striker Marcus Browne now finds himself inhaling noxious fumes on Teesside, while Cardiff City’s acquisitions of Curtis Nelson and Gavin Whyte have left Karl Robinson’s back line looking depleted.
It has not all been one-way traffic, with the highly-rated Ben Woodburn joining on loan from Liverpool, winger Tariqe Fosu arriving from Charlton and a certain Alex Gorrin venturing south from Motherwell. The latter once trotted the corridors of the Academy of Light and, while he’s a defensive midfielder, if you’ve any knowledge of how these things work you’ll be delighted to know SkyBet have him at 18/1 to score any time on Saturday.
We’ve had our fair share of incomings and outgoings too but, if you’re here, you’re probably well-versed on those already. Whether or not the new bunch are much cop individually is of less concern than how they fit into Jack Ross’ wider masterplan (disclaimer: I don’t know if he definitely calls it this), and if the 3-4-2-1 formation he’s experimented with this summer doesn’t bear sufficient fruit by Christmas it mightn’t just be the tree that gets chucked.
After this weekend we’ll cast our eyes to that shadowy bit over there, where the trio of Ipswich, Portsmouth and Peterborough await, all before August is out. That tricky grouping of fixtures underlines the importance of hitting the ground running against Oxford who, though they won’t be pushed over easily, surely comprise a team we should be beating if we are serious about ending our spell in this footballing hinterland.
There is no reason to believe we aren’t and, truthfully, we should all have recognised that extending our League One adventure any further than this year will go the same way as The Simpsons: too long, too repetitive, and just not fucking funny anymore. Talk about sustainability is nice but down here it’s a pipe dream with a big stadium and a nice academy; think about trying to live in a five-star hotel while only doing volunteering work and you’re not too far off. Promotion is imperative and an opening-day win looks similar.
Here we go.
By Chris Weatherspoon