After a remarkable EFL debut, Sutton United manager Matt Gray will be determined to prove it wasn’t just a one-off this season.
Remaining in the Play-Off hunt until the final day as well as making a Wembley trip for the EFL Trophy Final, the Us put themselves on the map during the 2021/22 campaign.
Coming into the Football League with one of the smallest budgets and a squad lacking EFL experience, Sutton not only held their own with their strong sense of togetherness and belief but also turned a number of heads along the way.
Naturally those impressive performances have led to a summer where much of the activity has been about trying to minimise the damage of departures while simultaneously strengthening to build on last season’s momentum.
So far the only notable departures have been goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, moving to Championship side Reading while tricky winger David Ajiboye, who racked up 12 goal involvements last season, has joined League One Peterborough United.
To offset the high-profile departures, Sutton have signed 27-year-old goalkeeper Jack Rose from fellow League Two side Walsall on a free transfer and Malta international Luke Gambin has arrived from Maltese League champions Hamrun Spartans.
While Gray already knows Rose from their days together at Crawley, Gambin brings a wealth of League Two experience from previous spells at Luton Town, Colchester United and Newport.
Also joining them at Gander Green Lane are Kwame Thomas and Sam Hart who are both expected to immediately challenge for a starting XI place.
Thomas returns to Sutton after leaving National League side Wrexham having spent a one-month loan with the Us from Coventry City back in 2017.
The 26-year-old is set to fill the void left by Richie Bennett’s move to Barrow while Hart will compete with Rob Milsom for the left-back position following Ben Wyatt’s departure.
Sutton have also signed defenders Matt Ridley and Tobi Ogundega, striker Tope Fadahunsi and fellow forward Josh Neufville on a season-long loan from Luton.
Neufville, 21, is certainly ‘one-to-watch’ after two successful loan spells at National League side Yeovil Town with Sutton clearly hoping the youngster will have a similar impact to that of former loanee Isaac Olaofe who is edging closer to first-team involvement at Millwall.
Despite the financial constraints, Sutton appear to have made shrewd signings so far, with those incoming appearing to be a perfect fit for not only Gray’s approach but also ethos.
However, with the summer transfer window open until September 1, Sutton are still actively looking to add the much-needed squad strength in depth which was ultimately their undoing at the end of last season as they fought for a Play-Off place.
Much will depend on any further potential departures but should Bouzanis and Ajiboye remain the only two main exits from the club then they are more than capable of eclipsing last season’s eighth place finish.
Re-creating last season’s humble mindset, winning mentality and their impressive home form will once again be crucial as is an upturn in results on the road.
Of course, the Us will not have the added advantage of being an unknown quantity at this level this time out, which can both be a benefit and a hindrance but either way, they should have more than enough to remain a Football League side for another campaign.
LFS Verdict: 10th
Special thanks to Paul Loughlin for supplying the Sutton United images.