With Sunderland gearing up for their first taste of Championship football since 2007, long-suffering fans may be wondering what the future may look like for the Black Cats.
While HITC Sport cannot provide a definitive answer, we have used Football Manager 2017 to try and predict where the side will be in five years - and unfortunately, it is still looking bleak for Sunderland.
Current Brentford boss Dean Smith is now in charge, but has been unable to lead them out of the second tier. With that in mind, here is a look at the XI looking to inspire a promotion bid in the 2022/23 season...
GK: Joel Pereira
Joel Pereira joined Sunderland in 2019 for £1.3 million. He has been a decent signing, keeping 14 clean sheets in the previous campaign.
Ritchie de Laet
RB: Ritchie De Laet
Ritchie De Laet also joined in 2019, signing for free from Aston Villa. His form has been much more unconvincing.
CB: Aden Flint
Sunderland spent £2.8 million on Aden Flint in 2018. He has since become captain, but has not really been the leader the side has needed.
CB: Lewis Dunk
Lewis Dunk joined the Black Cats for free from Brighton in the most recent summer window - so it is a bit early to assess how good a signing he has been.
LB: Danilo Soares
Danilo Soares is currently Sunderland's best player - proving to be a bargain having signed for £1.1 million from Udinese in 2021.
CM: Kyle Ebecilio
Kyle Ebecilio may be unattached in reality, but by 2022, he has commanded a fee of £1.3 million to move from Feyenoord to the Stadium of Light.
CM: Didier Ndong
Didier Ndong is one of two players within this starting XI who currently ply their trade with Sunderland. He is still yet however to justify the club's decision to sign him.
No player has cost Sunderland more since this simulation started than Jota, having cost £9.25 million. However, he has not proved to be a good signing - despite his obvious talent in real life.
LW: James Weir
James Weir was signed for £525,000 but has predominantly featured out of his favoured position, playing frequently on the left of the midfield.
AM: Josh Fletcher
Sunderland's side includes just one regen, and that is Josh Fletcher, who joined from Southend for £750,000 in 2018.
ST: Joel Asoro
Joel Asoro appears to be one of the brightest prospects at Sunderland right now, but his record of two goals in three years hardly suggests that he will realise his full potential.
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