With the new season fast approaching – the We Are Wearside team put forward their predictions for the forthcoming season. Leave us a comment with yours at the bottom of the page!
Player of the season: Adam Johnson
I am going to try and heed to some perspective as I am often guilty of over-optimism! Top half finish will most definitely be dubbed a success and suggest to Mr Short he is on a winner so we can start seeing huge coin fritted around next summer. Looking at the Premier League, the current top four, Spurs, Liverpool and Everton should comfortably be the top seven – but then there’s a big group of teams that are vying for the other four top ten spots. I’d be surprised to see more than two of Swansea, Southampton, West Brom, Villa or West Ham (the rest I consider relegation battling sides) finishing above us, so I’ve plumped for ninth.
I really do not buy the notion that Paolo Di Canio will not last the season, I think his comments regarding players are blown out of proportion and I really do not think any of the players mind what he says or how he goes about it. The biggest worries for me are firstly injuries to key players. Example, Cabral gets injured; we sell Lee Cattermole – frightening! Secondly, full backs, will we ever have any full backs?!
Kieren Westwood should be number 1 too and we will have a quarter final berth at least in one of the cups.
League position: 12th
Player of the season: Cabral
Difficult to predict with such a massive change of direction. A lot is depending on the form of Steven Fletcher as he returns from a long injury, as well as the hope that Jozy Altidore can transfer some of his Dutch form into the Premier League. If those hopes are dashed our goal-scoring situation can look a tad worrying. The full backs which we surely are about to get will not have the benefit of a pre-season either. Otherwise, we’re due a decent cup run, and with a bit of confidence it could happen this year.
League position: 9th
Player of the Season: Sessegnon
I'm going for a fairly optimistic 9th place finish and a league cup run. We'll beat the mags both home and away. Chelsea for the title with Stoke, Palace and Cardiff going down. Sess for player of the season- it seems we're keeping him, he looks a lot leaner and with some better support up top I feel he could flourish.
League position: 9th
Player of the Season: John O'Shea
I predict a tough start with the new signings taking a few games to adjust to the PL. But it's nothing Paolo Di Canio can't handle. A lot of the media have Sunderland earmarked to go down, but if last season's form can be rekindled, victories against the top teams and Newcastle will come easy with Modibo Diakité and Emanuele Giaccherini set to shine.
Player of the Season: Adam Johnson
When Adam Johnson arrived to join Sessegnon, McClean and Larsson in midfield last season I was sure Steven Fletcher was set to be spoiled by the number of chances supplied. As it turned out, Sess and McClean dipped in form (especially the latter) and the Scottish forward ended up living off scraps - albeit regularly fashioning those scraps into glorious goals. With Giaccherini and Altidore arriving and Wickham (hopefully) maturing, the burden on the shoulders of Fletch should be considerably reduced.
I am confident that Johnson will consign a slightly disappointing maiden camping to the history books and this season work within a much more accomplished attack and go on to play at the World Cup. I'll stick my neck out and say that the lad has the best left foot in the country and, with a top season under his belt, can provide Roy Hodgson with a great option. Furthermore, I expect Keiren Westwood to reclaim his no.1 shirt for Ireland, a heroic new right back to be discovered and a resurgent Wes Brown to be a solid presence in defence. For me the best new signing will be Giaccherini, who adds a much needed dosage of quality. Although I have doubts, I think Di Canio will remain manager for the whole season because he has the guile to turn bad form around.
My top scorer is indeed Fletcher, who I reckon will get 14 league goals. My final wish is an unpopular one, but I am crossing my fingers that we keep hold of Lee Cattermole. He was my favourite player under MON and I think he at least deserves a chance to prove himself. I'm going to go for two draws against the mags, although last season showed just how unpredictable a fixture it really is.
League position: 15th
Player of the Season: Tom Huddlestone
I reckon we will have at least one really good Cup run this season - don't rule Wembley out. Some players may well be a revelation under Di Canio - Johnson in particular looks really up for it in a way that he didn't last season.
I give Di Canio a 50 / 50 chance at most of lasting the season. There will be plenty of clashes with players along the way, and another big clearout in January. Sessegnon, sadly, won't last the season with us (and may be gone before the end of August).
Oh, and Danny Graham will score more goals for Hull this season than Jozy Altidore does for Sunderland.
League Position: 15th
Player of the season: Adam Johnson
This season will be won or lost in the second half of the season; I believe if we can keep ourselves out of the bottom three before new year we should be okay. I am sure there will be days that buoy me and days like today in which I cannot help but wince and worry at Di Canio's perfectly accurate but extremely heavy criticism of the team.
Player of the season: Emanuele Giaccherini
Paolo Di Canio and Roberto De Fanti have faced a huge task in trying to rebuild a team on such a tight budget. The impression I am given is that Ellis Short has kept a tight hold of the purse strings in case it all goes pear-shaped. With such little money, I think that they have done remarkably well so far, but plans remain far from incomplete with a squad looking rather thin with so little cover.
Sunderland's performance will be largely live or die on how successful Di Canio is in his ambition to become a top manager. Crucial questions are how he manages players, how well his fellow Italian coaches gel and develop them into a team and whether he has the tactical noose shrewd enough in the Premier League.
Like many, my expectations are of a real roller coaster season during the steep learning curve. If the volatile head coach does not implode, and there were perhaps worrying signs all were not that well after his reaction to the Midtjylland game, with luck Sunderland could finish as high as ninth. But if things are more unstable, and confidence dissipates, relegation could quickly be staring the team in the face. Somewhere in between may be most likely.
No doubt it is a crucial season and one that could make or break Di Canio reaching his aim. It is a tough challenge but maybe he will prove to be Sunderland's salvation. If not and without a plan B if it all goes pear-shaped, it could also determine whether Ellis Short jumps ship.