Hartlepool, for me.
As much as I’d like to be in Portugal, that’s just not going to happen, but the regular trips down the A19 to take on our County Durham neighbours have been a staple of my time as a Sunderland supporter, usually whilst stood on an old-fashioned terrace in the baking hot sun.
Admittedly, Victoria Park hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground.
I remember losing there ten years ago or so, thanks to a goal from a ninety-year-old Steve Howard. Also, if I remember correctly, during our last game there we only drew 1-1... my abiding memory of which was some tit loudly screaming abuse at Josh Maja in particular, for which he nearly got a slap.
Usually, a game against Hartlepool in pre-season spells the start of the season proper for most fans as it’s the first chance we get to see the Lads in the flesh, and for me this one will be no exception.
Hopefully by the time the 25th of July rolls around, we’ll have a raft of new signings in place and there’ll be a fresh feel about us - and you can imagine it’ll be one of the more focused friendly games given that it’s our last taste of the action before the season starts on the following Saturday.
Tom Albrighton says…
Sunderland versus Rangers stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Despite the fact that many fans have a strange love affair with the blue half of Glasgow, you can’t see this going off without a hitch.
Personally, I would rather Sunderland didn’t willingly associate themselves with such a club, but as fans we have no choice. Here’s hoping that both sets of fans can behave themselves whilst almost certainly pissed up abroad.
Rangers aside, it’s actually great to see Sunderland continue to play a host of local clubs, and strengthening any potential ties.
As the quality of football- at both league and non-league level improves, it is important for our future development that we maintain close ties to local clubs, both by being able to provide a genuine loan option to our younger players as well as a welcome cash injection.
Phil West says…
The pre-season schedule is certainly interesting, and the fixtures should provide a good chance for Alex Neil to assess his squad before we kick off our Championship campaign (I’ll never get tired of writing that sentence after four years in League One).
Most of the boxes seem to have been ticked in the shape of these fixtures.
There are some local ties against Gateshead, Blyth and Hartlepool, the last of which should generate a good crowd at Victoria Park, and the game against Rangers should add a dash of glamour, as long as it goes off without any crowd trouble.
The games against Accrington and Bradford ought to provide tests against solid and workmanlike lower-league opposition, and Dundee should be a good game as well, as Ross Stewart heads back to his roots in Scotland.
There is, I suppose, an argument that the schedule might be a little bit crowded, but next season will be a slog, and so it will be vital to build up the players’ fitness and ensure that everyone is fully up to speed.
I expect Neil to rotate the squad significantly during the games as well, thereby offering everyone a chance to make an impression and force their way into his thinking when the real action begins at the end of July!