Good to see the Lads back in action...
After almost eight weeks since our defeat at Kenilworth Road it’s good to see Mowbray’s boys back in action, especially in a format where we can see the whole squad get a run out in a single day. While we’re on the subject, well played to the club for sorting out a stream for both fixtures.
The idea of having two local friendlies on the same day seemed to work well in terms of getting 22 players at least an hour on the pitch under their belts. It also meant the opportunity for a whole host of young players to join the action for a decent chunk of the game.
Sandwiched in between a couple of weeks on the training ground after returning to the Academy of Light on the 26th June and a trip to the United States, it felt like a good introduction with both games having a good edge to it that went beyond standard pre-season walking pace.
Friendlies during the close season are always strange affairs, whenever the mind begins to form sub-conscious conclusions it’s always good to snap out of it and provide a reminder that it’s mainly about getting minutes in the tank after almost eight weeks without a matchday.
The trip to the US will be all about fitness in, what is likely to be tough conditions, which will be built around a schedule that sees the squad travel between Texas, New Mexico and North Carolina. The friendly announced this week against RCD Mallorca at the Stadium of Light on the 29th July will be the time to look out for systems and patterns of play before starting the season a week later.
On the topic of systems we deployed, it was interesting to see the Mowbray set up with a back four in the early kick-off and then with what appeared to be a more fluid back three later in the day at Gateshead.
As we saw last season it’s always good to be able to have that flexibility regardless, but sealing the signatures of two highly-rated central defenders might mean we see more of them being deployed on a weekly basis. Add into the pot the rumours on Danny Batth’s future recently, it might be one to keep an eye on as the summer progresses.
As is the way with Sunderland over recent times, it was exciting to see some of the young players in action over the two games. Not that we needed much convincing, but it reinforced the notion that Chris Rigg looks like some player - despite only turning 16 years old a few weeks ago.
A number of the other younger lads impressed, including Ben Crompton and Zak Johnson at the back and at the other end of the pitch, Trey Ogunsuyi and Michael Spellman stood out, but none looked out of place. After years of criminal neglect, it’s nice to be excited about academy prospects.
Off the pitch woes...
It’s difficult to pass comment on events at the club over the last week without mentioning some of the goings on off the pitch.
For those at this point who are saying that nobody cares about the new strip, then I wouldn’t necessarily disagree, I haven’t had a strip since the first home top at the Stadium of Light when I was a young’un - but this runs a bit deeper at the moment. We at Roker Report are receiving a constant stream of correspondence about the club not getting the basics right.
We’re hearing from people who are attempting to ask the club very legitimate questions for a whole host reasons - some relating to car parking linked to mobility issues, some trying to access disabled ticketing, some trying to ask why the club cancelled direct debit details for no reason - leading to their seat being sold, some asking why they have paid standard prices instead of “early bird” prices in effect when they made the purchase, some who have paid in full for two tickets but received confirmation for one... I could go on.
These are quite often fans who have mobility issues and require additional assurance, and the club are falling staggeringly short of providing services that people are parting with significant sums of money for. It simply isn’t good enough.
In a week that the new home and away strips were revealed for the new season ahead, the announcement on the retail side this week was an odd one. Praise has been banded about for the club pulling the plug on the proposed plans with Just Sport, but for something that has been presumably planned for months, it smacks of incompetence that it came so late in the day.
It’s a simple concept - provide merchandise that people are willing to part with cash for, but for too long the club have been wide of the mark. With the club deciding, for whatever reason, to keep the management of the retail side of the club in-house, it would be nice to see improvements when things reopen on the 12th July.