Former Premier League footballer Lee Hendrie has predicted sunderland will be able to immediately compete for promotion in the championship.
The Black Cats secured their place in the Second Division with a play-off final win over Wycombe Wanderers in May.
Alex Neil’s side will now be gearing up for life in the second division but Hendrie believes the team can fight for a top six spot in the table straight away.
The former Aston Villa player pointed to the club’s size, reputation and fanbase as components that could be crucial to their potential success.
The 45-year-old also believes promotion to League One could give the club the momentum they need to continue at a high level despite league promotion.
“I have her in my top 6,” Hendrie said, via Sky Sports.
“The way I see Sunderland, they’re out of the Championship, they’re destined for top-flight football.
“It took some time, they had to change managers. Alex Neil came in and did a brilliant job finally getting them into the Championship.
“I have a feeling this is going to be a stepping stone, I really do. I just think that a football club of this stature, this size, has its fans.
“I think their home form will be so crucial for them this season as you get 30, 35k and up in the Championship. Not many sites understand that.
“So I think that’s an extra man for a football team.
“I think Sunderland will jump high and I think they will have every chance [of a top six finish].”
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Sunderland’s fixtures were released at the start of the season, meaning fans now know the team will start their season at home against Coventry City on July 31.
This will be followed by matches against Bristol City and QPR in the following weeks.
Sunderland is certainly one of the biggest clubs in English football to compete outside the top flight.
This will always have resulted in neutral supporters pushing the club for promotion due to the club’s size and history.
However, promotion from the start will be extremely difficult for Sunderland, especially given the fierce competition in the division.
Lowering expectations and being content with maintaining their status in the Championship would be a more grounded, if somewhat ambitious, goal for the club.