The 2023-24 Wise Men Say predictions for Sunderland!

We dust off our crystal balls and attempt to predict where Sunderland will finish this season

We sit on the precipice of another season, and it’s another opportunity for the folk from Your Favourite Sunderland Podcast to make complete tits of themselves and predict how the season will develop.

How wrong will we be? Only time will tell.

Here’s how we’ve called it in previous seasons!


So, what can we accurately predict about Sunderland AFC’s second season back in the Championship? Probably very little. However, after the last campaign included two managers, no strikers and the play-offs, there is a good chance the forthcoming one will not be dull either…

What we can also say, with some certainty, is that the positivity which exists throughout the fanbase due to the club’s recent upward trajectory, will justifiably be retained too.

Football is fun again.

Yet, if we were to take the emotion out of it and look at the season ahead more objectively – for Tony Mowbray’s young squad – this is likely where the real hard work begins.

2022/23 was a free hit for the Black Cats. No expectations existed beyond staying up and arguably aiming for simply ‘mediocre’. Given those hopes were very much exceeded, there is a sense now that to continue the upswing, Sunderland must continue to build on what was frankly for several reasons, a Herculean effort and that will not be easy. A victim of their own success you might say.

The league will be stronger this year as has become somewhat of a cliché to say, with the team that were crowned Premier League champions seven years ago now competing alongside us, as well as Southampton and Leeds United also dropping down to the second tier. Enviously, they will bring with them all the financial trappings that sustained top-flight status brings.

Other key competitors will continue to strengthen too. For example, fellow play-off hopefuls Coventry City have only been back in the Championship a few years themselves. However, through savvy recruitment and player sale(s) were able to spend big on a certain Ellis Simms. Although we could theoretically be in a similar position soon, that part of the club’s model is yet to be fully tested.

In addition, sides who have trodden water in the division for a while are likely to see some fiscal green shoots following Covid-19 and may be better equipped to compete in the transfer market as the window heads to a conclusion.

That said, last season proved Sunderland AFC has nothing to fear. It was a joy to watch the Lads compete against each and every team (apart from *cough Stoke City at home) and the way they did it was so very easy on the eye. That all played a major part in a fanbase simply enjoying going to the football again and is very much why we can all surely look forward to the season getting underway.

Of course, another incoming striker is key in the time remaining before the transfer window closes to ensure we are not left short up top. Surely, we cannot rely on just two strikers yet again.

Especially considering the Ross Stewart situation. Crucially though, some transfer business has already been completed and the players signed thus far have addressed two attributes that many felt were lacking in the squad, specifically – height and physicality.

As such, with one or two player departures likely to both balance the squad but also free up some capital, we can hopefully expect another two or three key signings to really help us push for another successful campaign.

To conclude, we are going into the new season expecting success rather than simply desperately hoping for it. And for a very young squad, that is the next test. The good news though is – they seem capable of passing it. Exciting times ahead.

Predicted finish: 6th
Player to watch: Pierre Ekwah


The summer seems to have taken both an age and a blink of an eye, but here we are again, just a couple of weeks away from the season kicking off anew.

Last season was, without a doubt, far better than most Sunderland fans could dare to dream of, both in terms of our finishing position, and the football we played, so there’s a fair bit of excitement as we look ahead to the new campaign as we look to continue the progress made last year.

However, with that excitement comes a little trepidation; I’ve seen lots of people argue that the league looks a lot stronger this year. Personally, I don’t subscribe to that opinion, as you can never guarantee how a newly-relegated Premier League team, or a recently-promoted League One team will fair in their new surroundings; there are too many possible outcomes for each, so frankly, we should just not bother worrying about them.

To that point, Sunderland have just come off the back of a season of exciting, daring, attacking football played by one of the youngest sides in the country. Simply put, we should not fear any opposition, because the players clearly don’t.

Tony Mowbray’s band of toddlers have a year of first team experience under their belts, and I would argue that all of the youngsters who made over 10 appearances last year have already improved notably since they made their debut. There’s no reason to believe that the players we have are already a step up in quality from what they were this time last year.

The key players for this year will be largely the same as last; Jack Clarke (unless a much less insulting offer is made), Patrick Roberts, Trai Hume, Dan Ballard, Danny Batth (should he stay) and Dan Neil should again form a solid spine of a team – you can include Dennis Cirkin in that if he shakes off persistent injury issues. But we’ve also seen the emergence of Pierre Ekwah over the back end of last year, who looks like a player now fit to keep the engine running in a Championship midfield.

The main area of concern for me is still up front; Hemir’s pre-season showings have been promising, but with Ross Stewart still out (before you even consider the contract mess), we are still lacking in striking options. It certainly appears that the club are trying on this front, with numerous rumours for a plethora of exciting young forwards across Europe, albeit none of come to fruition yet.

The ideal scenario here is that we sign another solid recruit up top, Stewart returns to fitness and signs a contract.

If we avoid injuries even slightly better than the touring footballing hospital that we became last year, I’d fancy us to comfortably finish in the play-offs. Depending on the fortunes of bigger budget-bearing teams, and a few more smart additions, we could even be in with a shout of an automatic challenge; but this is still a young team, and we could just as easily slip to mid-table on experience alone.

Play-offs would be my bet, perhaps similar to Middlesbrough’s season last year. But another season of exciting, fearless football is good enough for me.

Predicted to finish: 4th
Player to watch: Pierre Ekwah


It’s safe to say that last season we exceeded the expectations of even the biggest optimist (Jimmy Reay).

I went for us finishing a respectable 12th and even that seemed borderline fanciful at the time so to sneak into the play-offs in fine form and only really succumb to eventual winners Luton Town because of a lack of any centre halves or discernible physicality capped off a gargantuan effort. Surely, we just go one better this time then? Easy.

Actually, probably not… as we got deep into last season it became clear that, Burnley aside, the league was fairly weak, and we could hold our own with anyone. This time though the relegated teams will be strong, with Leicester in particular making some scarily good signings, whilst the likes of Ipswich, Norwich, Watford and Middlesbrough will also expect to be competitive.

Put simply, we might not find things as easy as last season and even then, there were moments when we clearly needed to strengthen more than we did in order to make a proper go of it, particularly in forward areas where we routinely left ourselves short.

And once again it is in this area where attention is focussed. Amad has gone and has seemingly attempted to erase any trace of Sunderland from his Instagram account (the very thought!), Ellis Simms now has the task of filling a Gyökeres-shaped hole at Coventry instead of turning out in red and white and speculation continues around the future of Ross Stewart.

Even if the latter does stay, he is expected to miss the start of the season so our goalscoring hopes rest on the, admittedly broad, shoulders of 19-year-old Hemir Semedo.

You can base next to nothing on pre-season performances, but you could definitely file his contributions so far under “promising”. Saying that, it’s an enormous amount of pressure to heap on someone who, in his career thus far, has played 21 games in the Portuguese Second division.

Supporting him will be the far more known-quantities of Patrick Roberts, Jack Clarke and Alex Pritchard and realistically it’s these kinds of players who will be taking on creative responsibilities heading into the 23/24 season.

Elsewhere in the squad we’ve made more predictably Speakmany signings with the likes of Seelt, Triantis and Bellingham but given our recent track record in the transfer market we surely have to trust at least one of them will emerge as a crucial player. In the latter part of last season the partnership between Dan Neil and Pierre Ekwah was showing considerable promise and with Dan Ballard back from injury and Danny Batth back from not going to Blackburn the spine of the team is looking strong.

Although I expect the league to be stronger this time, the inner optimist in me can’t predict anything other than some sort of improvement on where we finished last season. Fingers crossed, just like last time, we can continue to surprise everyone and exceed expectations once again.

Predicted finish: 4th
Player to watch: Hemir Semedo


Ah, that difficult second album. Having surprised everyone with their debut season – well, the first in a while anyway – in the Championship, Sunderland now face the tricky task of repeating that success a second time around.

Part of the charm of last season was that the expectation levels were pitched quite low, and even lower when Alex Neil left for Stoke City – this led to incredibly enjoyable games where it just felt like a free hit, and what will be will be.

Will the expectations of the supporters be similarly low this season, or, is the bare minimum achievement for Tony Mowbray’s team qualifying for the play-offs again?

The league is arguably stronger – only Burnley went back up at the first time of asking last season, leaving Norwich City and Watford still rattling around the league with pockets full of parachute money following their 2022 relegation. Add to them Southampton, newly taken-over Leeds United and Leicester City.

If it was decided on spending power alone, Sunderland would not stand a chance. Despite being owned by a billionaire, we know the club will not pay huge transfer sums – a policy which has seen us shy away from bringing Ellis Simms back to the club.

What it will mean is continuing the policy of signing young, promising players with the hope they will either grow with us as a club, or outgrow us completely and then allow us to pocket a healthy profit when they do move on.

The summer’s transfer activity so far shows that to be the case – Nectar Triantis, Jenson Seelt, Jobe Bellingham and Hemir Semedo all fitting the Sunderland blueprint.

Many will continue to push for more experienced heads in the side, especially when the likes of Danny Batth are repeatedly linked with moves away from Wearside, but others will argue that a sixth-place finish in the Championship is vindication enough that the kids are, in fact, all right.

All right is one thing of course. I still maintain last season could have been a lot better than all right had we just added one or two players with a lot of experience under their belts in January.

But we go into a season with that young squad again, many of whom now have a season of Championship football behind them, spurred on by the disappointment of losing to Luton Town in the play-offs.

The nature of our transfer dealings ensures that the players coming in are unknown quantities to an extent, so it’s difficult to predict how well they will do with the exception of Jobe, who made 22 appearances for Birmingham City last season and is no stranger to the Championship.

It could, however, be a big season for the likes of Pierre Ekwah and Isaac Lihadji, two January signings that were eased into the setup as the season matured. With Amad back at Manchester United and seemingly not set for a return to Wearside, Mowbray may turn to Lihadji, who, like Amad, occupies that right side of a front three and delights in coming on to that left foot.

With a couple more signings – especially up top – we should have the makings of a decent squad. I just hope it’s as much fun as it was last year.

Predicted finish: 6th
Player to watch: Isaac Lihadji


Even the most optimistic Sunderland fan (Jimmy Reay excluded) wouldn’t have seen the Lads making the play-offs in their first season back in the Championship since 2016/17. It was quite a laugh watching everyone else fall apart while this young side breezed their way up the league but yet ultimately fell to “would you look at their ground” Luton Town.

While it was a wild ride, the whole campaign did feel like we were flying in the face of adversity. The heroic, and sometimes mystifying, management of Tony Mowbray meant that a team of mainly untested players punched consistently above their weight. However, therein lies the challenge for the upcoming campaign.

Last season was great because there weren’t any expectations, a sixth placed finish changes that. Mowbray will have to work wonders yet again with an incredibly young, inexperienced side who – at the time of writing – are still lacking reinforcements in key areas. There are promising signs in the progression of players like Pierre Ekwah and Jack Clarke but we head into the season still with a lot of unanswered questions.

Can new signings Hemir, Jenson Seelt and Nectarios Triantis handle the unrelenting grind that is the Championship? A lot is expected of Jobe Bellingham but he is only 17 years old and will have to be managed correctly, something which I have complete confidence in Mowbray to do.

The manager has already spoken of the need to add experience to this young squad, but talk of letting last season’s player of the season Danny Batth go, is already worrying. Supporters have seemingly bought into the club’s policy of buying young and selling high but there needs to be a balance. It feels at times that our transfer policy is trying to be too clever just because we’ve been burned on buying experienced players in the past.

We’ve also seen in the past that the club has been unwilling to invest when the team has a great shot of promotion (see January 2023). They need to be far more bullish and, if they are serious about getting to the Premier League, bringing in the players that the manager wants and needs.

Last season’s Championship was exceptionally weak, highlighted by the fact we reached the play-offs on one of the lowest points totals ever, and I can’t see it being the same again this season. The likes of Leicester City, Leeds and Southampton have come down with fat wallets and are already splashing the cash while the likes of Norwich City, Watford, Middlesbrough and Coventry City will all be eyeing promotion.

If Sunderland do manage to challenge for a spot in the Premier League again this season, it will be Mowbray’s finest ever achievement but it’s something I wouldn’t be betting the house on, but I’m usually wrong so who knows.

Predicted finish: 10th
Player to watch: Jack Clarke (unless he’s sold)


Does it have to come back? I’ve been quite enjoying relaxing, soothing Saturdays while watching cricket. Well, when it isn’t raining.

Last season was pretty fun to be fair, and it did feel that we massively overachieved when you look at the inexperience, the injuries and the impressive stubbornness when it came to signing a striker.

At present I’d say the squad is weaker, we’ve lost arguably the best player in the division. There’s the will he or won’t he situation with Ross Stewart but either way, he won’t be fit for the start of the season.

I’m not sure what to expect to be honest. It’s an exciting squad, packed with talent. They stood up well last season, and showed maturity beyond their years – a couple of exceptions aside, for example losing 5-1 at home to Stoke. Mowbray worked wonders and he’s going to have to do so again.

What else do we need? A central midfielder who’s played in the division before, and a goalkeeper to actually challenge Patterson. We need a striker too, but I’m sick of saying that. ‘Hemir’ looks a decent addition but we all know very little about him.

Holding on to Jack Clarke will be key, and I’m glad the frankly ludicrous suggestion of giving Danny Batth to Blackburn Rovers seems to have died down. Niall Huggins could be the stereotypical ‘like a new signing’ if he stays fit, which is exciting.

I think we’ll be okay, it’ll be exciting football again but as it stands, I don’t think we will improve, or match, last season.

Predicted Finish: 11th
Player to watch: Niall Huggins


Well, that was fun last time out wasn’t it? Despite the season apparently being dead several times along the way, Mogga’s band of fearless Gen-Z’ers nearly pulled off what would’ve been one of, if not the most unlikely Championship promotion (while also being one of the most aesthetically pleasing) since the Coca-Cola days at least.

The big question now is that with continuous improvement upwards absolutely essential to any sustainability objectives alone for a club of our size, how do we go about improving on the last campaign, and how likely is that looking right now?

The first big caveat here is that there is, at the time of writing, still over a month until this summer transfer window shuts and as we saw last season additions made (and possible departures) can have a significant impact on the prospects of a side even after the season kicks off.

The loan of Amad last season came later on, as is nearly always the case with loans from the PL (Simms came earlier at the end of July, but even that was just a day before the season started given last season’s calendar due to the World Cup). As such, it’s likely that some of the business we’re looking to do this window will (probably by necessity when it comes to loans) have to be concluded in the coming weeks.

Following on from this, the fact that our squad is looking somewhat unbalanced at this point is to a certain extent unsurprising, and we certainly won’t be alone in that across the division.

The ongoing injury to Ross Stewart (and the associated contract issues) mean that 19-year-old Hemir Semedo is currently our only recognised striker, and even with his very promising start in red and white in preseason taken into account, it’s obvious we need to recruit at least one but more likely two more attacking players.

The struggles we had with being too light up top were blatantly obvious at times last season, and undoubtedly cost us points and places.

We also struggled majorly with injuries at the back last season, but the early recruitment of centre-backs Nectarios Triantis and Jenson Seelt has added depth to our back-line. The excellent partnership (when both fit) of Danny Batth and Dan Ballard was a highlight of last season too, and how much we missed them was ruthlessly laid bare in that play-off second leg at Kenilworth Road.

Rumours of a possible departure of Batth are worrying, as although he is older his experience and ability will be needed just as much in the coming season as they were last. At the time of writing this seems to have cooled and he seemed very much involved in preseason as you’d expect, and so let’s hope nothing changes there.

It simply can’t be overstated how good of a job Tony Mowbray did last season to get a very inexperienced and at times unbalanced squad into the playoffs, navigating us through storms and choppy waters time after time like some kind of Jaffa-cake-eating pirate captain.

I have absolute confidence that he will ensure the experience gained by our young squad translates into improvements this season as they attempt to push on further.

We saw how quickly the likes of Ekwah, Hume and Ba visibly kicked on massively with runs of games combined with Mogga’s magic touch, and I see no reason why he can’t push these players on again as well as integrate the latest incomings (including highly-rated Jobe Bellingham, who is a very exciting addition in particular).

He has once again been at pains to stress that balancing youth with experience is also key, and it’s essential that this is heeded in our coming business (both in and out).

It’s very likely that we will face some stiffer competition this coming season than we did last with the overall quality of the league looking likely to increase with the likes of Leicester and Leeds (although it’s very much a lottery with the newly relegated PL teams – they nearly always look good on paper but regularly under-perform).

However I also see no reason as to why we won’t improve too; last season showed that there is definitely a process there to be trusted to an extent, and the issues were so glaring that I am going to give the hierarchy the benefit of the doubt that they will learn from their mistakes.

We were regularly shown last season that this side under Mowbray don’t fear anyone, and that positive play with a positive mindset led to positive results. Another season of that please.

Predicted finish: 3rd
Player to watch: Pierre Ekwah