SUNDERLAND will have felt the harsh lessons of being in the Championship back in 2018 but Patrick Roberts feels that the club need to take it as a learning curve and not repeat their mistakes.

The Black Cats four year stint in League One began when the Black Cats finished in the bottom three of the second tier after a disastrous first season after relegation from the Premier League. The club was hampered by dreadful on field and off field problems that marred their reputation for the forthcoming years.

After Alex Neil found a winning formula in the team in the second half of last season, a reinvigorated Sunderland now find themselves back in the Championship after beating Wycombe Wanderers in the play-off final.

A whole host of disastrous events on the field and behind the scenes led to their downfall many years ago but that’s no reason why Sunderland should diminish their chances of a successful season according to the former Manchester City man.

“You have always got to aim big. It’s a massive club. It deserves to be back amongst the big clubs in football” Roberts told The Northern Echo.

“It’s obviously been a difficult few years at Sunderland but you have got to learn from these things. What happened last time in the Championship, you have got to look at that and not emulate that. We have to carry the momentum from last season into a different league. You’ve got to take on the league and not think about it too much.

“Every game is hugely important from the start of the season to the finish. You don’t know where you end up in the middle of the season so you don’t know what you need to aim for but from the outset, you’ve got to aim to win as many games as possible.

“I think the manager will have that as well. He’s done it for numerous years in the Championship. He’s been at some clubs that have excelled in the Championship so he has got that experience. It’s up to us as players to listen to the advice, work as a team, to keep team morale up from last year heading into the new season.”

The last four years have been tough viewing for Sunderland fans who have seen the club lose a play-off final, a calendar affected by the pandemic and Papa John’s Trophy final loss.

2022 has seen them turn a corner in their fortunes as they now find themselves back in the Championship and one division away from the top flight but does the winger feel that this season will feel like a clean slate for the fanbase?

“Possibly. After last season and the ups and downs, at the end of it you could see there was more relief than excitement” Roberts responded. “You go into a bigger environment like this, the expectation to get out the league.”

Roberts has been no stranger to the Championship having had loan spells with Middlesbrough and Derby County in the past, both of which involved successful battles of steering his loan sides away from the relegation zone. In terms of learning the lessons of years gone by, he feels that the way in which Sunderland battled their way to League One promotion with a 16 game unbeaten equips them for next season’s battle in the Championship.

He continued: “You have a few downs and you go through the back end of the season going to places where it’s tough to go and grinding out draws. It became crucial.

“We scored a lot of late goals which obviously helped us towards the end. These are the things that, as a team, you’ve got to have in you. We worked ourselves and we got our rewards so it was just in the end. In the final we were the better team and we probably played the harder games (in the play-offs) against the tough teams. We grinded that out and got the result which good teams have got to be able to do that.

“Keeping a good chunk of the players here now, a lot still have Championship experience anyway, is important. Add that to young players and really attack a league that is probably a bit different to League One. Similar aspects but teams maybe want to play a bit more football in certain areas. If you are the right player in a team then you can exploit that but it’s about being focussed from the first game.”

Roberts penned himself a two-year deal earlier in the summer at a club that he feels he can call home after spending years on loan to various clubs. For him, enjoying his football is what could bring the best out of him.

Roberts admitted: “It’s been nice. Manager has been great, coaching staff have been great and the players have been amazing. I get on well with them so I am happy. You can enjoy your football more when you are happy.”