It’s here - it’s finally here!
Yes, Sunderland take on Stoke City U21s this evening at the Stadium of Light in what is our very first Checkatrade Trophy game as a third tier club. I know I’m not supposed to be looking forward to this - because the social media football hipsters tell us it’s a farce that U21s teams are even involved in this competition - but I really cannot wait.
Aside from the fact its another chance for the Lads to pick up a win and gain some momentum, its also an opportunity for supporters to watch some of the players we’ve got returning to fitness start a game.
Tickets are only three quid a pop, you get a loyalty point as a token gesture to say thanks, and you get to sit in (or near) the posh bit of the West Stand - what more could you possibly want from life?
I want to see Sunderland win every single game and competition that we enter. Just think, if we take the Checkatrade Trophy seriously we have a real chance to see our club win a trophy at Wembley. Why wouldn’t we embrace this opportunity?
Having had to get through the start of the season with a fairly thin squad, Jack Ross will be relieved that he now has a stronger pool of players to select from - he can afford to rest a few of his first-team regulars and give game-time to those that sorely need some competitive minutes under their belts.
Denver Hume, Luke O’Nien, Ethan Robson and Robbin Ruiter will be hoping for starts having settled for spots on the bench for much of the season so far, whilst Charlie Wyke, Dylan McGeouch and Tom Flanagan are all back from injury but could use a run out in their individual efforts to regain full fitness.
There won’t be any sign of Bali Mumba (England U18s) or Bryan Oviedo (Costa Rica) as they’ve both headed out on international duty.
Jerome Sinclair is back in first-team training but may have to wait until this weekend before returning to Jack Ross’ squad, whilst Aiden McGeady and Duncan Watmore are still missing through their long-standing injury issues.
Stoke are expected to name a side that blends youth with experience, with Gary Rowett’s senior squad bloated with first-teamers that are desperate for minutes on the pitch.
Charlie Adam, Jakob Haugaard, Tyrese Campbell and Josh Tymon could all feature alongside some of their most promising youngsters in tonight’s fixture - though in truth Stoke won’t be too focused on this game, with the first team faltering after failing to adjust back to life as a Championship club.
Kevin Russell’s side lost last time out, away at Manchester United, going down 1-0 thanks to a goal from highly-rated attacking midfielder Angel Gomes.
The Stoke side that day did indeed feature former Liverpool and Rangers midfielder Adam, who appears to have totally fallen out of favour with Gary Rowett and is instead getting his game-time from playing with the club’s U23s side.
Where Can I Catch The Game?
At the Stadium of Light, of course!
Tickets are priced at just £3 for adults and £1 for Over 65s and U16s.
If you can’t make it to the game then do not fear - we’ll be covering it live over on Twitter, and will have Player Ratings and a match report available here on the site at full time.
There’ll also be video streaming and audio commentary of the game, with Nick Barnes taking you through the full ninety minutes both on SAFC.com and on BBC Radio Newcastle (95.4FM).