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Match Preview: The Black Cats Take On The Monkey Hangers

Sunderland are back in action tonight for the first time in two months, but just how excited can we be about it when we don't know if our manager is staying or going?

Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Kick Off: 19:30pm, 20th July 2016
Venue: Victoria Park, Hartlepool
Last Season: N/A
Dafabet Odds: Hartlepool: 5/1 Sunderland:  4/9 Draw: 7/2 - Click here for more offers!

Well, lets be honest, the fact we're going into this game without a single new face in our squad is pretty disappointing.

Our ongoing issues with the managerial situation off the field are holding the club back, and as such we are seriously damaging our chances of having a positive pre-season which, in turn, will go on to harm how we begin our Premier League campaign.

Tonight represents the Sunderland supporters with their first opportunity to make their frustrations clear to anyone that has eyes and ears at Victoria Park and I think that is pretty important.

Though the club are not to blame in all of this, Sam Allardyce very much is and we need answers to many questions that only really he can answer.

Is he staying? When are the FA going to make a decision on the England manager's job?

Sam needs to be pressed into speaking to the media after the game in order to let the supporters that have backed him so well know just what the future holds for our football club. We need answers and we just aren't getting them. The fact we are three weeks from the start of the Premier League season compounds my worries - somebody needs to come out and be honest about what the hell is going on.

Team News

Due to their involvement in the European Championships this summer, John O'Shea and Seb Larsson won't take part as they are a few weeks behind the rest of the squad in terms of preparation. Charles N'Zogbia could feature as he bids to prove himself to the club in order to earn a contract.

In the main, this should see pretty much every member of our pre-season squad that traveled to Austria play some part. It's our first pre-season game, so most players will get forty-five minutes or so in order to improve their fitness.

Hartlepool have played just once thus far in pre-season, against Billingham Town, a game in which they fielded two completely different sides in each half. It'll be interesting to see if they do the same tonight.

Former Sunderland youth products Trevor Carson, Jake Orrell sand Nathan Thomas are expected to feature.

Fan Focus

This week we spoke to Hartlepool season ticket holder David Jolly, who had this to say about Sam Allardyce potentially leaving for the England job:

Out of him, Steve Bruce and Jurgen Klinsmann, Allardyce would be my preferred choice. Obviously Sunderland will already have a plan B just in case but it isn't an ideal scenario for any club to not be able to concentrate on the start of a new season. You can't blame Allardyce for wanting what would be a dream job, nor Sunderland for wanting to him to stay so, for the sake of both parties, it's something that will need to be resolved quickly - even if England's next game isn't until September.

You can read the rest of our chat with David here.

What The Gaffers Said

Hartlepool manager Craig Hignett:

It’s great for the lads to come up against Premier League players. It will be a good yardstick for them.

They have trained really and we had a really good game over in Tenerife. I’m looking forward to seeing if the players can do on the pitch what they have been doing in training. The way the lads have bought into what we are doing and they way they have worked, I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t.

I’m quite confident we’ll see the progress that has been made.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce:

Classic Match

There haven't been a great deal of classic encounters between Sunderland and Hartlepool over the years, with most of our face-offs coming in pre-season matches. That said, we did come up against our North East neighbours in an FA Cup third round tie in 2004, a game which was closely fought with only a Julio Arca strike separating the two sides.

At the time there was only one division separating ourselves and Hartlepool, and as such the game was end to end - a proper cup tie. The visitors were backed by ten thousand of their supporters and, had it not been for the gloves of Mart Poom, the result on the day could have been very different.

Surprisingly, the attendance that day was very good, with almost 41,000 fans in attendance. These days you'd be lucky if you got half of that for a cup match at the Stadium of Light but the figures were obviously boosted by the huge Hartlepool contingent that had made the short trip up the A19 for game.

Sunderland: Poom, McCartney, Babb, Bjorklund (Williams 74), Wright, Oster (Butler 83), Arca, Whitley, Clark, Proctor, Stewart.

Subs Not Used: Ingham, Ramsden, Teggart.

Hartlepool: Provett, Barron, Nelson, Westwood, Robson, Shuker (Istead 64), Tinkler (Clarke 80), Strachan, Humphreys, Williams, Robinson (Porter 71).

Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Brackstone.

Gav's Prediction

To be honest it feels a bit daft giving a prediction for a pre-season game but, seeing as it is a tradition in my preview bits, I'll go ahead and do one anyways.

The last time I was at Victoria Park for a pre-season game it was a drab affair right up until the kids were given a chance to shine and I have a feeling we'll see the same thing tonight. I'm going for a 3-1 Sunderland win, with all of our goals coming late in the match from our enthusiastic youngsters.