Sunderland – an easy start

No, really it is.

First of all the best time to play a relegated team is at the start of the season when they are still a bit complacent and new players are being bedded in. Blackburn lost 1-2 at Southend on the first day of last season.

But more to the point - take a look at our record away to Sunderland.

Eleven games at Roker Park and The Stadium of Light in the last thirty two years. Five wins, four draws and only two defeats. Our last two visits have both produced 3-1 wins, including the February 2003 game when Sunderland scored three own goals in seven first half minutes. We went down 2-3 in 2001 but before that we registered three draws. Yes, we were stuffed 0-4 in August 1993 but we won all three games before that. There is also the small matter of a win at Wembley 1998. In the last three disastrous seasons Sunderland have won 18 games out of 122.

This is only Sunderland's second experience of the third tier of English football. Their previous visit was short-lived as they bounced straight back up again as champions thirty years ago in 1988.  It does seem extraordinary that the club with the sixth largest ground in England and 22,000 season ticket holders will be hosting the likes of Accrington and Wycombe this season.

Once he had shed his interest in Eastleigh, Stewart Donald's consortium were able to satisfy the EFL Owners & Directors test and their purchase of the club went through in April. We are left wondering how that feels. Their first move was to appoint Jack Ross as manager. Ross arrives at The Stadium of Light with nine months experience as manager of Alloa Athletic and eighteen months at St Mirren during which he led them to promotion to the SPL and picked up the PFA Scotland manager of the year award. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the massive pressure which comes with managing a club like Sunderland where expectations will be sky high and patience in short order.

There has been a huge turnaround of players during the summer. Many of the expensive foreigners plus the infamous Jack Rodwell (£60k a week anyone?) have departed and been replaced by nine new signings so far: Chris Maguire Tom Flanagan, Alim Ozturk, Glenn Loovens, Dylan McGeouch, Reece James, Jerome Sinclair and Jack Baldwin (the most expensive signing at £200k from Peterborough).

Charlton will travel North with a paper thin squad, already depleted further by the injuries to Vetokele, Fosu, Clarke and Reeves and the probable absence of new signing Lyle Taylor. Lee Bowyer has said this week that he is demanding a top two finish from his players. "With everybody fit we can beat anybody in this league". It doesn't sound as if fitness will be the problem as he has put the squad through some intensive running in Portugal. He is optimistic: " You can see the players improving. They are all coming together as one, like a family. Last season too many were playing as individuals. That won't happen this year. I have tried to bring professionalism to the place and then the fans see the players care. It is not like I have given them a magic potion".

Sunderland average four home wins per season over the last three years. There is every chance of Charlton coming home with a point.