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Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

New start for Sunderland set to end in same sorry state

Rams can raid Stadium of Light in EFL opener

Tom Huddlestone is one of Derby's summer signings
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The new English football season starts at the Stadium of Light but it could be the same old feeling for Sunderland supporters with Derby fancied to upset the odds in the opening-night showdown.

Sunderland were a shambles last season as they finished bottom of the Premier League with only 24 points and six wins which led to a summer clearout that included manager David Moyes being replaced by former Preston chief Simon Grayson.

However, that was not before first-choice target Derek McInnes refused the job and it's easy to understand why the Aberdeen boss decided he was better off north of the border.

Grayson must have known he was walking into a tough vacancy but that was highlighted further last week when midfielder Darron Gibson's drunken rant regarding the state of the dressing room was caught on video.

Last week's 5-0 home loss to Celtic's reserves was a shambles from start to finish. New goalkeeper Jason Steele had a shocker while fellow summer recruits James Vaughan and Lewis Grabban argued over a penalty before Vaughan missed it.

Grayson will need time to get the team playing how he wants but Sunderland have been on a downward spiral for ages, only briefly resembling a unit during Sam Allardyce's great escape act in the 2015-16 season.

Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore and Bryan Oviedo won't be available until after the September international break and the rest of the squad is still being put together.  

Dutch goalkeeper Robbie Ruther recently arrived but Grayson says he won't feature until the midweek League Cup tie and talks are continuing over a swoop for Aston Villa outcast Ross McCormack, while Jeremain Lens has headed to Turkey for a medical with Besiktas.

Derby are more settled as the appointment of Gary Rowett as manager in March put the foundations in place for them to hit the ground running this season.

Rowett lost only two of his nine matches and there remains plenty of talent in the squad despite the summer sales of Will Hughes, Tom Ince and Cyrus Christie.

Andre Wisdom, Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davies have come in and the potential is there for County to push for the playoffs following their season of underachievement last term.

Chris Martin returns from a loan spell at Fulham and during last week's 2-1 friendly loss to Hoffenheim the strength of the squad was highlighted by the subs bench.

Dave Nugent and Matej Vydra were just some of the players unable to find a spot in the starting 11 and Rowett's mob look in much better shape to obtain a positive first result.

Derby draw no bet
1pt 6-5 Betfred

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Team news
Josh Maya, Jeremain Lens, Paddy McNair, Duncan Watmore and Bryan Oviedo are out. Jack Rodwell has returned to training and Simon Grayson is confident that Wahbi Khazri will be available. 

Darren Bent, George Thorne and Max Lowe are injured.

Key stat
Sunderland are winless in 11 home outings, failing to score in nine of those games.

Grayson must have known he was walking into a tough vacancy but that was highlighted further last week with midfielder Darron Gibson's drunken rant
E.W. Terms
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