How a spell in League One can be the beginning of the revival for Sunderland

It seemed inconceivable that Sunderland will be playing Accrington Stanley in the Football League next season but that is the harsh reality facing fans on Wearside.

Where once there was Arsenal and Chelsea, now there is Accrington and Gillingham. It might seem to be the end of days, the very bottom of the barrel after seasons of failing, but the truth is that it could well be the springboard that Sunderland need to begin rebuilding.

It is easy to point to Coventry City in League Two and use them as an example of what awaits, or even Portsmouth currently battling to get back into the Championship. Other sides such as Charlton have found life tough in the third tier also but there are so many examples of sides eventually thriving.

Southampton spent time in League One not so long ago but Adam Lallana helped inspire them to further glory. They won promotion, picking up the EFL Trophy on the way, before finding themselves back in the Premier League and in the League Cup final. They remembered how to win games in League One and they carried that through to the top flight.

 

Adam Lallana - By PANNATHORN SUKMANONT - Adam Lallana in Bangkok, CC BY-SA 2.0

Leicester City are perhaps the very best example of what can be achieved. In 2008/09, they found themselves scrapping with the likes of Colchester and Tranmere but, after a couple of seasons losing matches, they remembered how to win again. Within a decade, they added the most treasured domestic prize of them all to their trophy cabinet, the Premier League.

More recently, Wolves have suffered the indignity of a relegation to League One, only to bounce back stronger and wiser. Their promotion this season caps off a rise that has pleased many of their fans but it has also ended a miserable period. The slide was truly arrested in League One where they too remembered how to win games.

Sunderland have a huge opportunity to make use of youth players such as Lynden Gooch, Joel Asoro and Josh Mata. These have the potential to thrive in League One. They would likely be afforded more chances too as the quality of opposition, whilst not to be underestimated, would take a dip some weeks.

 

Sunderland boss Chris Coleman - By Steindy (talk) 16:08, 10 November 2016 (UTC) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

There’s also the added weight Sunderland have when attracting players at that level. There’s a lot of big fish fighting for signatures in the Championship, but there’s few bigger than Sunderland in the third tier. Blackburn have demonstrated their pulling power by attracting Bradley Dack, a player who has made an enormous impact on their season. One division below, Marc McNulty was never going anywhere other than Coventry City, a relative behemoth of a side when compared with Morecambe and Stevenage. He’s scored the goals that give them hope for the future.

There’s the positive of their own young players getting a chance, the opportunity to pick and choose the very best League One has to offer by wowing them with the grand stadium and top rate facilities and there’s an opportunity to win the EFL Trophy as well. They would surely be amongst the favourites for both that trophy and the league in almost all football predictions. It might be a maligned competition in which it would seem offensive to face Newcastle U23s but it is a route to Wembley, a route to silverware and a chance for players to gain confidence and experience.

Relegation isn’t a good thing and Sunderland should have done much more to avoid it but it can be a cathartic experience from which they come back stronger, wiser and full of confidence once more.

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