Jack Ross has done an impressive job since arriving at the Stadium of Light and the Black Cats are now third in the League One table. Will Sunderland secure automatic promotion back to the second tier of English football? Only time will tell but the signs are certainly positive.
Momentum is key in the race for top spot and the Black Cats are right on track. Sunderland are on an eight-match unbeaten run and Ross’ side have a game-in-hand on League One pacesetters Portsmouth. April’s clash with Pompey at the Stadium of Light could turn out to be massive for both clubs in the race to climb back into the second division.
20-year-old Josh Maja has been prolific in front of goal in 2018/19, notching 15 goals in 25 appearances for Sunderland. The Black Cats striker has relished leading the line for most of this campaign and only Doncaster Rovers forward John Marquis (16) has scored more goals in League One. With the Sunderland star linked with a move to Bordeaux, the Black Cats could look for his replacement in the coming weeks.
Draws have hurt Sunderland so far this season and the Black Cats must avoid dropping too many points in the second half of the campaign. Ross’ side have lost just two league games in 2018/19 but those 11 draws are the main reason why Sunderland are not sitting pretty at the top of the table. Turning those draws into wins will help the Black Cats to take control of top spot.
Imagine the scenes if Sunderland are promoted and arch rivals Newcastle United drop out of the Premier League; Black Cats fans would love nothing more than to taunt the Magpies, who are now 4/1 in Premier League betting odds for relegation, after Newcastle’s jubilance at Sunderland’s recent decline. The Magpies are likely to be involved in a relegation battle in the coming months, after all.
Sunderland put Newcastle’s under-21 side to the sword less than a month ago, putting four goals past the Magpies in the Checkatrade Trophy. The Black Cats have an impressive recent record against their close rivals; many supporters would like to see the Tyne-Wear derby return to the football calendar.
With 19 league games remaining, there are still plenty of chances for points to be won and lost. Sunderland must place great emphasis on turning draws into victories – Ross will be wary of dropping more points ahead of the business end of the campaign.
Sunderland have one objective between now and the end of the season: secure promotion. Whether the Black Cats go up as League One winners, runners up or via the playoffs, the Black Cats need to step back up to the second tier. The third division is notoriously difficult to get out of and Sunderland must seize this opportunity as they look to climb back up the Football League hierarchy.