Premier League Preview - Sunderland
NICKNAME: Black Cats
MANAGER: Martin O'Neill
STADIUM: Stadium of Light (49000)
LAST SEASON: 13TH
A season of transition for the Black Cats resulted in a bottom half finish, but nevertheless the signs are promising for a prosperous future under an experienced boss in Martin O'Neill - a former protégé of the great Brian Clough. Last season was heading in one direction under Bruce and the Black Cats board acted wisely to replace him with a manager that could afford to choose his own path.
Young signings such as Connor Wickham will certainly leave a legacy in the North East and the exciting talent James McClean roared onto the scene with a succession of excellent displays prior to the season's finale. A solid 13th placed finish was earned and certainly something to build on for the coming campaign.
IN: Carlos Cuellar (Aston Villa, free)
OUT: Marcos Angeleri (Estudiantes, undisclosed), Asamoah Gyan (Al-Ain, £6m), Michael Turner (Norwich, undisclosed), George McCartney (West Ham, undisclosed), Michael Liddle (Accrington, undisclosed), Jordan Cook (Charlton, free), Craig Gordon (released)
It would be fair to say that O'Neill has been prudent thus far, keen to dispel the previous revolving door policy implemented by Steve Bruce. Bruce's infamous last minute deals were hit and miss but the experience of Cuellar - signed by O'Neill at Aston Villa will provide some extra assurance at the back. Sunderland's second season under the guidance of their new boss should see an improvement, more consistency and getting used to O'Neill's style of play.
KEY PLAYER: Connor Wickham
Connor Wickham came to Sunderland with a fantastic reputation from Championship side Ipswich Town. Making his debut for the Tractor Boys in 2009 as a 16-year-old, Wickham went on to score 13 goals and play a pivotal role in all of Town's attacking endeavour. Eventually rumours concerning his future came to fruition and Sunderland paid a reported figure of £8m for the young forward. He scored a solitary goal last term and will be certainly hoping to better this tally in the coming season.
The general performance and standard of Sunderland last time out needs an improvement for them to better last season's performance of 13th. While others around them have captures new talent, Sunderland have made their solitary addition and supporters will know that standing still at this level can lead to a decline and further improvements may be required to bolster their league position this time out.