Sunderland will be embarking on their first Championship campaign since 2007 when the new season gets underway in August.
The Black Cats suffered a disastrous season in the Premier League last time out, finishing bottom of the pile with just 24 points from their 38 games, ending up 16 points adrift of safety.
And the summer has already seen much change at the Stadium of Light, with David Moyes resigning as manager, but with just six weeks to go until they kick off against Derby County on August 4, they have yet to appoint his successor.
And although their priorities should be to get a manager through the door, they have got to start thinking about strengthening the playing squad if they want to have a chance of an immediate return to the top-flight.
And one man they could look to sign, and indeed bring back to the Stadium of Light, is Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing, who looks set to leave the Riverside Stadium this summer.
Recent reports suggest that the 32-year-old is a surplus to requirements under new manager Garry Monk and thus is no longer needed at the club, and this should persuade the Sunderland hierarchy to make a move for the former England international this summer.
And that’s because the Black Cats need a serious boost of creative talent next term after a dire campaign last time out.
Moyes’ side only managed 29 goals in their 38 Premier League games last term, and created a mere 256 chances in their matches, equating to less than seven a game.
Whereas only Gaston Ramirez created more chances than Downing in a Middlesbrough side that showed little desire to get forward throughout the season, so maybe the 32-year-old didn’t have as a bad a campaign on the pitch as many have suggested.
Ultimately, Sunderland’s tally was not good enough, so some fresh faces in the attacking ranks is imperative this summer if they are to sustain a promotion push next term, and if his first spell at Sunderland was anything to go by, Downing could be a very shrewd addition.
The 32-year-old, albeit in just a one-month stint at the club, bagged three goals in seven games for the Black Cats in the old First Division – keep that ratio up and the North East side will have a very good player on their hands!
Add in the fact that the £3.4 million-rated star (as per Transfermarkt) knows what it takes to get out of the division, having done so with Boro back in 2016, and Sunderland should look to bring the 35-time England international the short distance across the North East to the Stadium of Light this summer.