THEY exceeded expectations by finishing in the top six of the Championship last season but Trai Hume says Sunderland's players and staff believed the Black Cats were "more than ready" to win promotion to the Premier League.

Sunderland's aim before a ball was kicked last term was a season of consolidation but Tony Mowbray - appointed in August after Alex Neil's exit - led the Wearsiders to a superb top six finish, before promotion hopes were ended by eventual play-off winners Luton Town.

Mowbray was repeatedly asked during the run-in whether he felt Sunderland were equipped for a potential promotion, and Hume insists there were no doubts at all in the Stadium of Light dressing room.

Ultimately, the Black Cats came up just short, but Hume says it was a "great season for everyone involved" - with Sunderland now looking to build on the success in the coming campaign.

"We had a great season in the Championship," said Hume, currently away on international duty with Northern Ireland.

"We only got promoted last year and we were in the play-offs come the end of the season. It was a step ahead quickly but I believe we were good enough and all the players, staff and fans believed we were more than ready to go up.

"Obviously it didn't happen, it was unfortunate, but it was still a great season for everyone involved."

It was a terrific season for Hume on an individual level as well. The youngster only joined Sunderland from Linfield in January last year but established himself as a key first team player under Mowbray, playing 28 times in the Championship last season.

He scored his first goal for the club in the 2-1 win over Birmingham in April before netting the winner in the play-off semi-final first leg victory over Luton at the Stadium of Light.

"That was definitely up there with one of my best moments," he said.

"Scoring in the first leg with the header, the first five or 10 seconds of celebrating I couldn't even remember, I had to watch it back. I was so excited and happy."

Since joining Sunderland, Hume has also established himself in the senior Northern Ireland set-up and is part of Michael O'Neill's squad for the coming games away at Denmark on Friday and at home to Kazakhstan next Monday.

He says: "It's a dream come true for any player. It's been a whirlwind to be honest. I didn't really expect it to happen so soon but since I moved to Sunderland I've been involved in all the camps. I'm trying my best to take it all in my stride and enjoy it. Hopefully I can just keep playing games.

"When I made my first appearance against Hungary I almost scored, the keeper made a good save. Hopefully that first goal comes sooner rather than later."


Northern Ireland beat San Marino in the group opener but having lost to Finland they now need two positive results to ensure they stay in touch with the top teams in Group H.

O'Neill's task is made all the more difficult by the fact he has so many senior experienced players out injured, with Hume admitting the youngsters in the squad are still getting used to the demands of their boss, who is in his second stint in charge of the national side.

Hume said: "We won the first game against San Marino and lost the second to Finland so for us it's about trying to have a good training camp and trying to bounce back. If we won two games it would be massive for everyone. If we won these two games it would put us near the top of the group and that's the plan.

"A lot of players have (played for O'Neill before) but there's also a lot of young lads coming through who haven't. Getting used to the way he wants to play and the way he wants Northern Ireland to play will take time for the younger players to get used to, but a lot of the senior lads have done it before so there's a good blend."