Alex Neil sets new Sunderland target after citing reasons behind play-off glory

Alex Neil Sunderland 2022 TEAMtalk1

Alex Neil praised the way his players dealt with the expectation after Sunderland were promoted to the Championship with victory over Wycombe at Wembley.

The Black Cats have plied their trade in League One for four seasons after finishing bottom of the second tier at the end of 2017-2018. They have twice reached the play-offs only to lose out on the chance to move up a division. However, there will be Championship football at the Stadium of Light next term after a 2-0 play-off final victory.

Elliot Embleton notched the opener in the 12th minute to give the north-east outfit a 1-0 half-time lead. And Ross Stewart ensured the Wearsiders would not be denied for a third time with his 26th goal of the campaign on 79 minutes.

Sunderland will join Wigan and Rotherham in England’s second division in 2022-2023. Neil believes his side were good value for the victory.

The former Norwich City chief felt his charges handled the situation well and is relishing the challenge of fighting for a Premier League spot.

“I thought we deserved to win, Wycombe did great this season, we knew people back us and we were favourites, but that’s normal for us,” he told Sky Sports.

“We coped really well, and the lads deserve. This is the first step on getting back to where we want to be.”

Neil ready for Sunderland celebrations

Sunderland spent ten consecutive seasons in the Premier League before slipping into the Championship after the 2016-17 campaign. And, winning just seven games the following season, they were down to League One.

It has been a struggle to get out of the division. But the men in red and white have finally achieved their aim.

Asked about the challenge of getting back into the top flight, the Scot preferred to switch focus to what his players achieved in north London.

“I focus on the guys that matter who are the players and they got the job done,” he added. “I’ll start thinking about next season when my hangover wears off.”

Elliot Embleton Ross Stewart Sunderland 2022 TEAMtalk1

Neil took over as manager on February 11 this year after the sacking of Lee Johnson. He oversaw eight wins and six draws in 15 matches to guide his side to fifth in the table.

They will find it a lot tougher in the Championship but the ex-Preston chief will doubtless strengthen in the summer. And, with the crowd behind them, it may be that the dark times are now behind the club.

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