Joey Barton’s attempt at mind games in the race for promotion in League One is a timely reminder of why the Black Cats simply must move up to the second tier ahead of next season.

Barton was quick to gloat after seeing his Fleetwood Town narrowly miss out on all three points against Sunderland – bitter rivals of his former side Newcastle United – claiming that they are ‘a much better team’.

Sunderland are arguably the biggest club outside of the Championship with their recent history of top flight football and using, you can back them to make it second time lucky in the League One play-offs this season.

The club have suffered hugely with back-to-back relegations to the third tier, but they have shown signs of life in League One as they look to build their way back up to the top.

Finding themselves stuck in mind games with Barton, who in his day was famous for his ability to wind up opponents, is a harsh reminder of how far the club have fallen.

Just three points outside of the League One play-off places, Sunderland have last season’s final heartache at Wembley to learn from and Phil Parkinson will be hoping that his squad can use that as inspiration as they look to climb out of the third tier.

After losing so narrowly to Charlton last season, Sunderland now have a great opportunity to get promotion this time around and begin their assent back up the Football League. Important results against those around them, like Fleetwood, are a good starting block to build on if they want to cement their place in the top six.

The club have leaned heavily on the likes of Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch for goals this season and they’ll need the pair to be close to their best if they want to finish the campaign on a high.