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York City v Sunderland - Friendly

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How much do you think pre-season results matter?

We’re often told that playing before the league campaign starts is an exercise to purely get our players fitter and sharper, but does it matter if you win or lose games in pre-season?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

Of course pre-season results matter. How can they not? Football is a results business, after all.

I understand all of the arguments about friendlies being a fitness exercise, a chance to work on tactics and shape, and of course, they are – that’s their main purpose.

But winning breeds confidence in supporters. It breeds confidence among the players. It breeds confidence for the manager – and in the manager.

A successful pre-season isn’t necessarily a sure-fire indicator of a successful season – but you’d sure as hell rather be starting the new season coming off the back of some convincing victories – as long as they were against half-decent sides.

Think back to some of our better seasons of the past 30 years or so. How did we do in pre-season?

1987-88, when we won the Third Division title.

P6 W4 D1 L1 GF18 GA6.

1995-96, when we won the Division One title.

P6 W5 D1 L0 GF 17 GA5.

1998-99, when we won the Division One title with a record-breaking points total.

P5, W4, D1, L0. GF 10 GA2.

Some of the worst?

2002-03, when we were relegated from the Premier League with 15 points

P6, W1, D1, L4 GF4 GA8

2005-06, when we finished bottom of the Premier League with 15 points.

P7, W3, D1, L3. GF3 GA5

Now, of course, I’m not arguing for a second that a successful preseason sets the course of the season that follows in stone. There are plenty of examples to the contrary.

We had decent pre-seasons during 2016-17 (before the Moyes effect really took hold) and 2017-18 (before the rot truly set in). In Poyet’s last pre-season we won six, drew one and lost one.

But footballers can’t turn the tap on and off. While fitness and tactics etc are the focus of pre-season, the whole point of working on them is so we can get the best results possible in the season. The three aren’t exclusive to each other.

If the fitness is right, and the tactics and game plans are right, results should come.

If the results don’t come, it suggests something’s amiss. The confidence of everyone involved is going to be diminished somewhat. You only have to look at the reaction up the road to two friendly defeats.

I know I’d rather head into the proper season on the back of six wins rather than six defeats, and I’m sure everyone else concerned would prefer that too.

Do pre-season results matter? Damn right they do.

Heart of Midlothian v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says...

Pre-season results are almost entirely insignificant in the grand scheme of a footballing season. There, I said it.

Pre-season serves a very specific role and that role is not chasing results. We’ve all watched football long enough to know that pre-season serves to provide match fitness, match sharpness and a valuable chance to hone technique and tactical shape.

Those worrying about a draw against York with a team comprised of 50% youth players need not concern themselves with the result. It's just panic for panic's sake.

Jack Gingell says...

I think there’s an odd balance with pre-season games.

On the one hand they are generally viewed as fitness exercises, to get minutes on board for the first team squad and perhaps integrate some of the younger players.

On the other, it can show when a squad has obvious deficiencies.

I think ultimately though, they actually mean very little in terms of how the results go. Take a couple of examples - Lincoln lost 5-0 to Boston United in a recent friendly, but I’m sure they’ll be involved in the League One playoff race; Newcastle (apologies for the blasphemy of mentioning them) lost 5-1 in a friendly to Leyton Orient and went on to win the Championship without issue.

In terms of Sunderland context, we’re clearly still busy recruiting and the team that started against York will unlikely to be the team that starts the season.

Time for some to relax, gain some perspective and actually be positive.

Sunderland Training Session Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

It's an old adage that ‘results matter’.

I believe this applies to pre-season friendlies.

The winning habit or mentality is an almost ominous phenomenon when you come up against it. I like my Sunderland teams to win their pre-season games and to utilise this ominous phenomenon as they go into their season.

The caveats to not winning are:

  • Team formations trialled in game time
  • Players on the fringes (youngsters and squad players) get an opportunity to force their way into first team reckoning.
  • Players trialled in different positions (Winchester at right back v Hearts)

The team playing well and losing in a pre-season game is not something I have seen that often (though I am sure someone will remind me of such). What I have seen more often is individual players carry their good pre-season form into the season proper (Gordon Chisholm pre-season 78/79 springs to mind!).

It’s often said players get their match fitness built up in pre-season games to a degree, but I am not so sure about this, given the staccato nature of some friendlies and the amount of substitutions that disrupt the flow and tempo of games.

So come on Lads, win your pre-season games and take this form into the season!


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