Gary Bennett: Sunderland need to add strength and power to the team

Jack Ross
Jack Ross

Small, lightweight and outmuscled too easily.

Gary Bennett believes Sunderland’s lack of physicality last season was a key factor in relegation to the third tier for only the second time in the club’s history.

And the club legend hopes to see Jack Ross add more strength and power to the ranks ahead of the assault on League One.

Sunderland finished bottom of the Championship last season after another dismal campaign but with new owners and a new manager comes fresh hope of a brighter future.

Ex-St Mirren boss Ross has so far landed four of his transfer targets, with experienced goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin, defenders Alim Ozturk and Tom Flanagan and forward Chris Maguire arriving.

Much more is needed though, with several players still expected to depart as Sunderland cuts its cloth financially and moves some big earners off the books.

In terms of incomings, one of the key boxes that Bennett wants to see ticked is adding physicality to the squad ahead of another gruelling 46-game league campaign. Bennett told the Echo: “We talk about recruitment and the type of player you want to bring into the football club.

“In terms of physicality for Sunderland last season, we weren’t a match to anybody. Generally last season, the Sunderland team was small and lightweight. We were outmuscled.

“That was the Championship, in League One it will be even worse.

“You come up against big, strong lads. The players you come up against may not have the same level of ability but what they will do, they will run for 90 minutes – are we strong enough to cope or battle with that?

“At the present moment, from what we have seen from last season, you’d have to say no.

“In League One, we will be dealing with a lot crosses into the box, second balls, it is going to be A to B.

“Once it settles down then hopefully you can go and play, but mentally you have to make sure you are strong and can cope with that physicality, certainly for the first 20 or 30 minutes of games.

“You will get tested.”