The club won promotion to the second tier in 2021/22 as Alex Neil came in midway through the season and helped them to go up via the play-offs, beating Wycombe 2-0 in the final at Wembley.
Their work in the transfer market played a huge role in their success as they brought in a number of talented players to boost their chances of finding a way out of League One.
One player the Black Cats played a masterclass with was the signing of Ross Stewart from Premiership side Ross County in January 2021.
Then-manager Lee Johnson tipped him for big things, saying: “Ross is a player that will be great for us in the short term, but he can also develop and improve over the long term. He’s at a good age, he’s very fit and quick, and he obviously has good height as well, so he has all attributes to succeed.”
Sunderland paid a reported fee of £300k to land the Scottish striker and he had a fairly low-key start to life in England as he scored three goals in 12 League One appearances during the second half of the 2020/21 campaign.
The centre-forward then kicked on after settling into life south of the border by setting the third tier alight in 2021/22 as he fired the Black Cats to promotion.
He scored a whopping 26 goals in 49 appearances as he averaged a sublime SofaScore rating of 7.25 – the highest in the Sunderland squad. His goals were crucial in them securing their place in the Championship, scoring two goals in their three play-off matches – including in the final against the Chairboys.
Since making the step up to the second tier, Stewart – who teammate Alex Pritchard dubbed “unbelievable” – has proven that he has what it takes to perform at a higher level.
This season, the Scotland international has scored five goals and assisted three in seven outings, averaging a SofaScore rating of 7.66 – a score only Olivier Norwood of Sheffield United (7.68) can better in the entire division.
At the time of writing (25/09/22), Transfermarkt value the striker at £3.15m. This means that they value him at a whopping 950% more than what the Black Cats initially paid to sign him from Ross County in 2021.
His price rocketing over the past 18 months or so illustrates how much of a masterstroke his signing has been and Sunderland deserve full credit for spotting him. They will now be hoping, with his contract expiring in 2023, that he enjoys many more successful seasons on Wearside.