What matters most to Sunderland fans this season?

Sunderland's Craig Gardner Promotes New Invest in Africa Away KitUpon signing the biggest sponsorship deal in the club’s history, Tullow Oil believes Sunderland will soon be the best known team in Africa. The club’s latest home and away kits will promote the not for profit organisation Invest in Africa as the club looks to increase their global presence.

While the deal plays a key role in maintaining their long term business aspirations, fans have witnessed false dawns before. An affiliation with Ghanaian side Asante Kotoko was meant to aid African relations while the signing of South Korean Ji Dong-Won was meant to attract more Asian support. While fans appreciate the strides made to promote the club worldwide, a disappointing end to the season means there are more pressing matters closer to home. With that in mind, what really matters most to Sunderland fans this coming season?

Given the team’s unenviable position as part of the Premier League’s mid table group, sadly the most important thing for some Sunderland fans is simply getting one over on their archrivals Newcastle United. Of course many have higher aspirations but the competitive nature of the league means realistic expectation is limited to a cup run and a top ten finish. That would qualify as progression for side used to yo-yoing between the leagues but now Sunderland have established themselves in the top division, fans are starting to demand more from their team.

The Black Cats have invested a lot of money to ensure they don’t slip back down into the Championship but the general feeling among fans is that team is still lacking in a number of areas. Overspending by previous managers Roy Keane and Steve Bruce has left them full of squad players and fans would rather see additional funds put towards forming an attractive side than see it frittered away on furthering awareness of the club in far flung destinations. Having finally appointed a manager that the fans can relate to, many feel it’s time the club backed Martin O’Neill to bring quality players to the club so they can potentially compete for the same 6th place finishes the Northern Irishman achieved at Aston Villa.

While that may seem some way of, neighbours Newcastle have leapfrogged the Mackems and regained their place as the North East’s top side. The Wearsiders briefly laid claim to that title but while their fans appreciate the Geordies massively overachieved last season, many have been left wondering if they can finish 5th with a fairly limited squad then why can’t Sunderland?

Envious glares have been heightened by the manner of Newcastle’s revolution. Sensible financing, exciting signings and eye-catching football have left many Sunderland fans clamouring for improvements to be made to their own playing staff. Unfortunately further investment in the club has been curbed by the pressing need to cut costs and its sod’s law that they would finally find a manager they trust at a time when they can’t afford to back him. Financial Fair Play regulations aside, fans are still more concerned with on field matters than global promotion because it’s difficult to appreciate the bigger picture when results aren’t going their way. Worldwide endorsements are an investment for the future and Sunderland’s attempts to widen their reach across distant countries will ultimately increase their financial capabilities. The Black Cats are now competing in the Peace Cup in South Korea this summer, a trip far removed from their more familiar preseason tours across Great Britain and this is evidence to support a more open minded business approach.

Even if the club’s hierarchy appear to be making all the right noises as Ellis Short looks to further the good work achieved by former chairman Niall Quinn, the most important thing to Sunderland fans is still results on the pitch. After all they’re the ones who pay for tickets and are entitled to watch entertaining football rather than be bored senseless for 90 minutes safe in the knowledge the club is on a sound financial footing.

Beating Newcastle may not be the be all and end all but the rivalry between the two teams overshadows any positive attempts made to further the club’s global brand. It’s about results and league positions, not International promotion and with the black and white part of the North East currently competing for European football, the most important thing for Sunderland fans right now is to keep up with their rivals.

So what matters most to you in football?

It’s a simple question isn’t it, but there are so many ways of interpreting it, and any number of ways of answering it. Samsung have asked football fanswhat matters most’ to them. I have added my thoughts on what I like to see from Sunderland and I suggest you do the same by clicking here to be in with a chance to win a whole host of Samsung goodies. Why not join the debate…

Click here to let Samsung know what matters most to you in football…