It’s back! Have you missed it? We have.
It’s fun talking about off the pitch stuff but what really gets us going is watching the Lads go out there and play - even if the last two seasons have been utterly miserable.
The pre-season schedule affords expectant fans with many fulfilling and joyous experiences - seeing goals fly in as the players have a kick about under very little pressure, away days at various lower-league venues within an hour’s drive of home, watching the players wear their new kits and catching a glimpse of the new players for the first time are just some of them.
Tonight’s trip to National League North side Darlington will hopefully see some - if not all - of those things happen, giving Sunderland supporters something to cheer after over two months without witnessing first team action from the Black Cats.
The Gaffer Says...
The squad is still going through a transitional phase, but we had a meeting while we were away and there’s some key foundations of how I like to play and I’m a big about standards and demands.
We want to start reaching that standard from a very early stage and a lot of what the players have done has indicated just that, so as much as these games are about fitness, we want to start winning and make it a habit as quickly as possible.
The trip to Portugal went as well as it could from a manager’s perspective. I think the players enjoyed it and the reaction we’ve got from the squad has been really positive.
There’s always a structure and logic to what we do and after 10 or 11 days of training the players have been good and by and large they have been fit, so they will all get 90 minutes split over the next two games against Darlington and Hartlepool.
There will be a 60 to 30 split tomorrow and then the same on Saturday, and we’ll mix it up because we had a few young ones away with us and they’ll feature over the coming games.
A few of them will start tomorrow in and amongst the senior players, and it will be good to get some game time under our belt.
The Treatment Table
Maverick wide-man Aiden McGeady has not yet returned to full training after picking up an injury whilst on his pre-season break and is certain to miss out.
Whilst the former Celtic man is one of the higher paid members of the Sunderland squad, there haven’t been many rumblings about him leaving and though his future is unclear, he’s very much a part of Jack Ross’ pre-season plans. Had he been fit he would have most certainly played a part this evening.
Jon McLaughlin, who arrived on a free transfer this summer after an incredibly successful season keeping goal for Heart of Midlothian, also has a knock and is a serious doubt to feature - he’s more likely to play a part in the game this weekend with Hartlepool United.
The View From The Dressing Room
New-boy Chris Maguire was desperate to sign for Sunderland this summer and, having put in some incredibly hard work during our training camp in Portugal, he now can’t wait to get out onto the pitch and show the Sunderland supporters what he’s all about.
Speaking to SAFC.com, he said:
We had a good training camp and it was a great opportunity for everyone to bond as you’re with each other 24/7. Now it’s down to business and it’ll be nice to be back in the swing and get the games going.
It’s all about getting minutes in the tank. You grow with each game and you get better at what you’re used to doing – touch, passing and shooting – and by the end of it everything comes together.
It was nice to pull on the shirt for the first time and it’s a lovely strip, as soon as you put it on you just want to cross the white line and play. I’m told there’s loads of fans coming to the game as well, so I’m really excited.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
Unfortunately there will be no streams for any of our pre-season games and, just for this one, there’ll be no radio commentary either.
So, if you want to catch the game you have two options - you either get off your backside and head to the ground or you follow Roker Report’s commentary and post-match analysis both here on the site and on Twitter! We’ll be live-tweeting during the game and then, afterwards, our man James Nickels will have his player ratings from the game up on the site.
Cash turnstiles at Blackwell Meadow will be open, and tickets are priced at £10 for adults, £8 for concessions, £5 for under-16s and under-11s are free when purchased with an adult ticket (one per transaction).
If you want to know which boozers to head to before the game, how to get there or what the ground is like be sure to read our handy Away Day Guide here.