MICHAEL BEALE feels he has inherited a Sunderland side that is more than capable of making the play-offs this season – and is adamant he will not be radically overhauling the playing style that was developed under his predecessor, Tony Mowbray.

Beale conducted his first press conference as Sunderland head coach this afternoon, and will preside over his first game in charge of the club when Coventry City visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Whereas most new bosses are installed because a team has been underperforming, Beale inherits a Sunderland side who are sitting in seventh position in the Championship table, having lost just three of their last nine matches.

Mowbray took the Black Cats into the play-offs last season, and Beale accepts another top-six finish must be regarded as a minimum requirement this term.

“The club’s got a vision and processes I really believe in to get to where we all want to go, which is back to the Premier League,” said Sunderland’s new head coach. That’s what the fans want, and the fans drive the club in terms of expectations. That’s really important.

“Every single player in our dressing room wants to go to the Premier League. It’s a young dressing room, and that’s where we think the potential of our players is.

“Now, the front two have set a really fast pace haven’t they in terms of where they’re going, but we’re one of a group of teams who believe we can go and get into the play-offs. With where we’ve started the season and where we are now, albeit that we’ve had a bump in the road at the weekend, we should be optimistic and demand that.

“Our fans should demand that, and we should demand that internally. We have to demand those standards. We want to set ourselves up so that, after the March international break, we’re in a position to push and go there.

“Last season, playing with a slightly different style and a slightly different make-up of the group – maybe a slightly older group – we managed to get there. So, why wouldn’t we dream and push and go for that again?”

Under Mowbray, Sunderland developed a reputation for playing attractive passing football, with exciting young forwards playing in a number of different positions in the final third.

Beale wants to build on the work of the last few years, and will continue to encourage his players to express themselves and play with freedom when in possession. However, he also clearly feels there is scope to make the Black Cats more robust, and will be looking to put his own stamp on the squad in the next few weeks.

“Whoever is in charge of Sunderland is expected to win games of football,” said Beale. “I would flip it and say that the good work Tony has done and the foundations he has left means that I come in with it in a good place. The fact that we've kept the staff in place is a positive as well.

“I don't know Tony too well personally, but I remember many years ago we sent Ryan Kent on loan to Coventry City, where he had (James) Maddison, Adam Armstrong etc. He's always had teams that I've enjoyed watching.

“His team play with width and lots of freedom, that's what the fans here at Sunderland have obviously enjoyed. We're going to continue that, and hopefully add one or two extra bits on top of that. There's no doubt that Tony is a very good manager and Mark Venus alongside them, I've got a lot of respect for them both."