Weblog: The football punter

Sunderland woes could continue

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

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Match in Focus

18:00 TODAY BT1

Marseille v Strasbourg

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Marseille are unbeaten in 14 of their last 15 Ligue 1 matches
Expert verdict
A Florian Thauvin masterclass was too good for Rennes on Saturday and Marseille can follow up by seeing off dodgy travellers Strasbourg. Thauvin scored one, had an assist and won a penalty which he missed in the 3-0 win in Brittany. Strasbourg, meanwhile, went down tamely at home to Guingamp and it’s only their home form which has kept Le Racing in mid-division.