IT has been a refreshing change to be around Sunderland in the last few days. From the official reveal of the brand new home kit, and the new, enlarged club store from which the kit will be sold, to the return to training for the squad and the first interview with head coach Regis Le Bris – it is a stark difference to the summer of silence that we had endured up until a week ago.

Kit manufacturer hummel reported that Sunderland sold eight weeks worth of stock of the kits in the first day of sale – and if you were out and about in the city centre over the weekend you could see plenty of people wearing their shirts with pride.

In marketing terms, the club, with chief business officer David Bruce pulling the strings, absolutely nailed the kit launch.

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From the teaser videos shared on social media to the official launch video which dropped on Thursday, before the exclusive store opening for invited guests and 100 lucky randomly-selected Sunderland fans, they created the demand in a way that hasn’t been done on Wearside in some time.

It also helps that the shirt itself is a thing of beauty. Taking a hint from the first kit hummel designed for us, used between 1988 and 1992 (incredible to think kits lasted three entire seasons in those days) it features new elements including the Stadium of Light co-ordinates and the ship design from the previous club badge woven into the stripes.

It is a modern classic and deserves all of the praise it has been receiving. I can’t wait to see the away and third kits now!

The new Sunderland shirt for the 2024/25 campaign.The new Sunderland shirt for the 2024/25 campaign. (Image: We Are Sunderland)

So now the dust has settled, the hard work needs to begin.

And already, we’ve had some great progress on the playing side with the news that Chris Rigg has reportedly chosen to sign his first pro contract with Sunderland, rejecting overtures from other clubs, not least Newcastle United, the club the Hebburn-born youngster supports.

It’s a real coup to have signed Rigg up for the future – he’s clearly been reassured by Sunderland’s appointment of a head coach that will put his faith in young talent.

And he’s had plenty of game time so far in a red and white shirt – there’s no reason why Le Bris is not going to use him regularly going forward, unless it’s deemed necessary to send the midfielder out on loan to give him more experience of the Football League.

It’s fairly clear that Rigg’s pathway is different to many other 17-year-old footballers. There’s no real need for him to cut his teeth in academy football. He’s beyond that now. He needs to just simply play football – much like Jobe Bellingham has.

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In my mind, the best place for him to be is Sunderland – and it’s great news that he and his family clearly agree.

If you ask me what Sunderland’s summer priorities were as the curtain came down on the 2023-24 season it would be, in this order: appoint a head coach, tie Chris Rigg down to a long-term contract, resolve the Jack Clarke situation sooner rather than later, prioritise defensive midfield and centre forward as the main areas for recruitment.

The club has ticked two of those boxes off now. Now let’s hope they focus on the other priorities – and we might have even more to be positive about