Sport: Alex Neil on the difficulties of meeting Premier League expectations on a budget at Sunderland

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Alex Neil plotting a Championship promotion campaign on a £50m budget would be easy at Sunderland - but it simply is not an option. The Black Cats have returned to the Championship this season after four years in League One, and they began their second tier campaign with a 1-1 draw against Coventry City yesterday.

Sunderland head coach Alex Neil © Getty Images Sunderland head coach Alex Neil

With gates of 40,000-plus making Sunderland by far the best-supported team outside the top flight, there will inevitably be expectation in some quarters that Sunderland should be pushing for promotion this term. But, having worked at this level before, Neil knows that that is highly unlikely given that Sunderland's ownership is keen to run the club in a sustainable way rather than pour in vast sums of cash.

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"There's been a disparity at the club for a long period, and that makes for an anomaly," he said. "There's been a League One team for the last four seasons, a Premier League stadium, a Premier League fanbase, a Premier League expectation, but the fact is that we need to recognise where we are.

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"We all want to get there as quickly as we can. I would like nothing more than for someone to give me £50m, and say we expect you to finish in the top six - that'd make my job really, really, easy.

"The simple fact is that we are not doing that. Everybody talks about sustainability, doing it gradually, and taking baby steps, but the biggest difficulty that you're always going to have is that the fanbase doesn't want to hear that.

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"They want to win. They want to win all the time. That becomes difficult, but what I'm trying to do is to paint the picture of where we are, this is what we are trying to do, and it's going to take a bit of time."

Neil points to yesterday's opponents Coventry as an example of the kind of trajectory that Sunderland must follow, with the Sky Blues having won promotion from League One in 2020, finishing 16th in their first season in the Championship and then 12th last term, and now looking to break into the top half. Neil said: "Coventry are a great example for where we are, or where they were when they came into the Championship.

"I think in the last four years, the highest anybody [who has been promoted] has ever finished is 15th. And people are talking about us potentially hitting the top six.

"And we're still probably three or four players down on numbers on last year, so you do the math."

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Full transcript as Sky Sports pundits praise Alex Neil and give Sunderland transfer verdict .
Presenter Mark Chapman and pundits Micky Gray and Clinton Morrison discussed Alex Neil's start to life at Sunderland ahead of the Carabao Cup X to Sheffield WednesdayThe Black Cats boss named a completely changed starting eleven from the side which won at Bristol City on Saturday, with a debut handed to goalkeeper Alex Bass. However, the 18-game unbeaten run came to an end as goals from Dennis Adeniran and Sylla Sow secured a 2-0 win for the Owls.

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