This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Sunderland striker Ross Stewart has made an excellent start to the new campaign, netting four times in the club’s first five games.
The Scotsman has played a vital role in Sunderland’s early success this season, with The Black Cats leading the way at the third-tier summit.
Stewart, who joined Sunderland earlier this year from Ross County, played a deputy role to Charlie Wyke for the majority of last year.
Now, after a prolific start to the season, the ‘Loch Ness Drogba’ will be hoping to continue in this vein.
Admitting that the initial aim is always to break the ten-goal barrier in an interview with Chronicle Live, we asked some of the team at FLW to share their thoughts on how many goals he could be on for this season…
This is a very important question, because it could be the difference between the Black Cats going up and remaining in League One again after the departure of Charlie Wyke.
After scoring four times in his opening five league games, he has the ability to be the 20-goal striker Lee Johnson has been craving since Wyke left in the summer.
And with an assist machine like Aiden McGeady, the talented Lyndon Gooch as an option out wide and an in-form Elliot Embleton surrounding you, the sky really is the limit in League One.
Not only will the trio be important to him, but defensive solidity and the ability for the likes of Dan Neil and Luke O’Nien to win the midfield battle will dictate the number of chances he gets.
The more chances he gets, the more likely he is to score and if McGeady, who topped the League One assists charts last season despite only starting to play regularly in August, can get back into his form from the 2020/21 campaign, a 20-league goal target is certainly a realistic aim to strive towards.
You feel as though Stewart should really be pushing towards the 20-goal mark for Sunderland this season.
It has already been a strong start to the campaign for the 25-year-old, with four goals from his five league games to date, and while it may be tough to maintain that sort of record throughout a campaign as long as this one, it does seem as though he ought to be a regular scorer going forward.
Indeed, given the return that Charlie Wyke produced last season, the fact that Stewart is now playing in that same position means he should get plenty of opportunities to continue to get on the scoresheet, having already shown the same sort of clinical instinct that Wyke did last time around.
Looking at Sunderland’s options upfront, it also seems as though Stewart, fitness permitting, should be their first choice centre forward over the next few months, that too should ensure Stewart has plenty of time to increase his goals tally even further, meaning that given his start to the campaign, anything that is not well into double figures will no doubt feel like something of a disappointment.
It’s a hard one to say.
Charlie Wyke, for instance, was never really prolific in front of goal before last season, but he then went and scored over 30 goals in all competitions.
A lot of that was down to Wyke’s style of play and the service Sunderland created for him.
Stewart is a similar type of striker to Wyke, so a lot will depend on him potentially scoring 20 goals or more this season.
If the likes of Aiden McGeady are on top form and can put the ball on a plate for Stewart, then he will be presented with a lot of chances.
I reckon he will score 20 goals.