Sunderland under-23s went through a transitional season last year as the club got to grips with life in League One.
Tonight, though, marks the start of a new season with fresh hope as Elliott Dickman’s men kick-off with an away trip to Stoke City.
The development side are able to boast a number of new faces too, with Ruben Sammut joining from Chelsea while Michael Collins completed a switch from Everton.
Speaking to safc.com about the start of a new campaign, Dickman shared his excitement after reviewing a positive pre-season.
“We were really happy to be able to bring in Ruben Sammut this past summer from Chelsea," he said.
“The plan with Ruben is to keep him around the under-23s, but if the first-team staff see enough in him then they might promote him to be with them as the season progresses.”
"All the new players have settled in well which is great and now we're just ready to get going.
“We changed pre-season this year as we wanted to come up with something different.
"Normally we play six or seven games, but we restricted it to four games as we wanted to get them on the training ground more," he continued.
"Luckily a few of them have been around the first team which is great for them.
“We have had the four games and they have all been different for various reasons.
"They were difficult and gave us the challenge of playing against men’s teams as we didn’t play any U23 sides.
“The four games have been brilliant for us and beneficial in many ways. The fact that we have only had four has meant that we could ramp up training and spend more time with them.
“We are ready and excited for the game on Monday and I am sure the Lads will put in a positive performance.”