With the opening game of the new era almost upon us, the general positivity amongst Sunderland fans moved up a notch yesterday, in what proved to be a busy and most-likely pivotal day of the close season thus far.
The most important news in my opinion, arrived with the unveiling of our new Number 9, Charlie Wyke. Like many of our new recruits, I won’t profess to be an expert or give any strong opinion on the ability of the Teessider, however just listening and reading the comments of those that do know him, has to put a smile on the faces of SAFC supporters.
23 goals and 13 assists in 62 appearances for Bradford City, along with a reputation of a powerful centre--forward with strong hold up play, will instantly place Wyke as a vital missing piece of Jack Ross’s Red & White jigsaw.
Let’s hope that he regains fitness as soon as possible, and he not only takes his place in the side, but finds the net in Sunderland colours with even more frequency than before. At 25 years old, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be ready to kick on and hit his prime on Wearside.
A couple of hours before the news broke of Wyke’s signing, the club announced (in surprisingly fine fashion, it has to be said, huge credit to the Social Media team!), that George Honeyman would wear the captain’s armband for the 2018-19 League One campaign.
My own opinion on this decision is one of indifference. I’ve never really bought into the role of captain in the modern game, and I believe its importance and impact on those around them is becoming more limited. That said, the fact that Honeyman was one of those that Stewart Donald mentioned as wanting to leave (albeit not from his own mouth), coupled with the glowing reference from Jack Ross on his ‘maturity, intelligence, energy and application’ during the gaffer’s brief tenure, and finally of the pride that the skipper declared upon receiving the honour, ensures that there is certainly no negativity from myself in him being awarded the role.
I think more important than the job of captain, is the fact it hopefully puts to bed any talk of him wanting to be elsewhere, and that he not only embraces the new responsibility, but flourishes in midfield, progressing his career from a promising year in The Championship.
Away from the pitch, we received confirmation from the red-trousered one, that not only have 26,000 tickets been sold for Saturday’s visit of Charlton Athletic, but the game will also see the return of the popular Fan Zone, and that a number of other improvements to the match-day experience will be introduced this Season.
The revamped matchday music programme did make me flinch and hope nothing too cringeworthy was coming our way, but to be fair, the fact I attended a Little Mix concert last week renders any opinion I had on this topic, null and void.
The club have set a target to beat Man City’s attendance record the last time they were in the Third-Tier, and I truly believe that investing time, energy and a little money into improving the Stadium of Light experience is absolutely necessary if we were to challenge those figures. Be it the closure of the Fan Zone, the seat colour or the lack of catering facilities, it has to be said that a trip to a Home game was rather joyless, and that’s without the dross served up on the pitch in recent years.
Finally, and on the same subject, I think it’s vital that as a fan base we also play our part, especially in the initial few weeks. We have a rapidly-assembled squad of players plying their trade under a new manager, and not only do I urge fans to do their utmost to make it to the SoL, but also to give the Lad’s their vociferous support.
Possibly more important again, would be a degree of patience. Should we concede an early goal against Charlton, the temptation would be to think ‘here we go again’ and respond with moans and groans. But should the worst happen, an instant display of support and solidarity could in turn provide the new boys with the confidence and belief to express themselves, without the fear that their predecessors frequently succumbed to.
Enjoy the match…