Saturday 24th July 2021
(L2) Harrogate Town v Sunderland (L1)
The EnviroVent Stadium
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via www.safc.com.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at www.RokerReport.com!
It’s been just under a year since we last met Harrogate Town in a pre-season friendly, that time it was at the Stadium of Light and Will Grigg scored the winner during an attempt at rebooting his Sunderland career.
In that respect, not much has changed, and this is also true of the two clubs to a certain extent. Last term we had a manager who was going through his first summer in charge of Sunderland ahead of our third attempt of getting out of League One - eleven months later and we are playing out the same scenario.
Lee Johnson is halfway through his first pre-season, with three played and three to go, and after impressing at Hearts we stuttered at York - but hopefully the manager learns more about his team during those games than the comfortable victories.
In terms of available personnel, Luke O’Nien could be available after recovering from a shoulder injury but it is too soon for Alex Pritchard who tested positive for COVID-19 and also Lynden Gooch who pulled up with a hamstring injury during the draw at York.
It will also be interesting to see if Bailey Wright has any involvement in the fixture. The defender picked up a groin injury during the training camp in Scotland, but is also subject to interest from clubs such as Wigan Athletic, so any absence is likely to increase speculation.
This is Harrogate Town’s fifth pre-season friendly and so far the only victory came against Newcastle United, which turned out to be the mags U23 side after there was an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst the first team squad.
Town’s last friendly ended in a 3-1 defeat at home to Rotherham on Wednesday night and they have an immediate chance to improve against the Lads today.
Simon Weaver has been in charge at Wetherby Road since 2009 and after nine years in the National League North, they achieved two successive promotions to become a Football League club for the first time in their history ahead of last season.
Despite being one of the favourites for the drop, they managed to finish 17th and 12 points above the relegation places, which they will be looking to build on this coming season.
Last Time We Met...
Saturday 29th August 2020
Sunderland 1-0 Harrogate Town
Sunderland: Burge, Flanagan, Willis (McLaughlin), Wright, O’Nien, Power, Scowen (Dobson), Hume, Gooch (Neil), Maguire (O’Brien), Wyke (Grigg) Substitutes not used: Matthews, Taylor, Feeney, Leadbitter, Diamond
Harrogate Town: Cracknell, Fallowfield, Hall (Lokko), Falkingham, Burrell, Smith, Thomson, Kerry (Kirby), Stead (Beck), Muldoon (Kiernan), Walker (Emmett)
Played for Both
Washington-born Paul Thirlwell came through the ranks at Sunderland to make hi debut in 1998. He made 92 appearances for the club in his six years at the club, where some were as captain.
He joined Harrogate in 2015 where after playing a season he moved into the coaching setup at Wetherby Road and was appointed assistant manager in January 2017.
Moved to Sunderland for £1.8m in the summer of 2005 after Mick McCarthy led us to the Premier League, but like the rest of the side, he struggled to make an impact. Scored 2 goals in 40 appearances before moving on to Sheffield United two years later.
Joined Harrogate Town in 2019 and has played a major part in their success over the last couple of years and after the final game of the season he announced his retirement from the game.