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Editorial: Do Sunderland’s pre-season performances really matter? (and off-pitch woes continue)

It’s the question that gets posed every year, but having seen three games so far in pre-season we ask once again: do Sunderland’s performances in these games really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Do pre-season results matter?

Every single year, without fail, people will say “performances/results don’t matter in pre-season”, and that’s because usually, they’re right.

Ordinarily I’m one of those people, trying to allay any fears about the way we’ve seen the team play in a particularly crap game, because the evidence generally suggests that your results in the off-season don’t have any huge bearing on the way you play once the proper action begins in the league.

But when you think about it, it’s a pretty broad question and I’m not sure it’s entirely fair.

Do the actual results themselves matter? I suppose it depends on how you choose to read that question.

We don’t get any points or merit for winning games but at the same time, winning is a good habit and no matter what the situation, it breeds confidence. I think if you ask the players themselves they’ll tell you that they want to win everything they take part in, whether that’s a game of head tennis at the Academy of Light or a game of cards on the bus back from a match - these are professional competitors. It’s deeply ingrained into them to want to win at every single thing that they do.

Take the South Shields game last week for example - Luke O’Nien was poor for two of the goals, and you can’t tell me that he didn’t come away from that experience disappointed and determined to work hard to put the aspects of his performance that he didn’t like right.

South Shields v Sunderland Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

I think that in most cases it comes down to the individual themselves.

Hemir is a good example in that he’s come across to Sunderland from a different country and has a lot of adapting to do both on and off the pitch before he’s even in a position to be comfortable with his game - so, if he can get off to a good start in pre-season, scoring goals and developing a rhythm, then that can surely only bode well for the coming months.

He’s got two goals in his first two games and for a forward that’s crucial, because ultimately you’re judged on your ability to find the back of the net. If he can get another couple of goals in the next few games, that’s not only going to give him confidence for the start of the season, but will also give his manager confidence, and the fans confidence that he’s got the ability to do damage in the Championship.

Similarly, we’ve seen Chris Rigg score twice already in pre-season and that will naturally alleviate his status in the minds of the fans and the football club, showing that he's more than capable of making an impact at first team level.

He’s been shown a great deal of confidence by the club in giving him the chance to be a part of the senior squad and, to his credit, he’s taken the opportunity with both hands. Like with all of his teammates, he’s now one of the group fighting for a place in that first team ahead of the season, and a couple of weeks ago I’m not really sure that I saw him that way, but when you watch the lad play it’s clear to see that whatever ‘it’ is, he’s got it.

San Antonio v Sunderland Pe-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Obviously though the objective is to get the players fit for the first game of the season, and playing in the searing Texas heat against a team who is in the thick of their competitive season is going to go a long way to helping us achieve our goal, but for me there’s plenty that we can take from playing in those games and whilst we shouldn’t get too carried away by what we see, we should also take encouragement from the good stuff that we’ve witnessed in the matches over the past couple of weeks.

Off-the-pitch woes continue...

That’s unfortunately where the positives end, so if you’re on a buzz and don’t want me bringing your mood down then I suggest you click off the page and stick some classical music on instead.

We’re probably boring people to death at this stage but I can’t really go without bringing up Sunderland’s off-the-pitch issues again, in what was yet another frustrating/embarrassing week for the football club in many respects. Whilst we seem to be getting so much right from a footballing and media perspective, everything else is like a bag of shit for some reason.

The failed hand-off to Just Sports of our retail department saw the club take their online shop back into their own hands, and when it was re-opened to the public last Wednesday we were inundated with messages from fans who were having issues simply accessing the website, which constantly crashed and just wasn’t functional.

People were logging on to buy their new shirts but in some cases were left disappointed because the website kept dying, and I know of at least three mates who just gave up and ended up driving down to the actual club shop instead so that they could get what they wanted.

I was hoping to buy my little girl the new away strip but it seems that we don’t even have any baby sizes in stock, which seems mental to me. Rumours are that there will be stock later in the month, but it strikes me as odd that you’d have a kit launch but not have all of the stock you need available on day one - isn’t that just a basic requirement?

And despite only going on sale on Wednesday there are certain bits of kit already out of stock, which just strikes me as odd. Why don’t we have enough stuff ready for sale?

We won’t even have the home kits on sale until the end of the month which again seems bizarre to me given we’re in mid-July - I can’t help but feel they missed a huge opportunity to cash in on all of last season’s goodwill around Father’s Day, because so many fans would have handed over their money for the new strips around that time, me included.

The bad feeling doesn’t end there though as it seems we’re still in an awkward position when it comes to the digital ticketing fiasco, in that the club seem to be very coy in what information they’re prepared to divulge to the masses.

From what I can see it appears that they’re trying their best to not inform fans on a mass scale that they can get a physical ticket if they want one, mainly because they want as many people using the digital system as possible. As of writing there has been no official club communication other than Chris’s tweet via the website, email or social media.

There was a promise earlier in the year that physical tickets would be available to those that needed them, yet in the club’s digital ticketing communication earlier this week the topic was avoided entirely, instead informing supporters with technology issues that their best course of action would be to get a family member or friend that they trust to use their email address to access your digital ticket.

In what world is that an acceptable compromise for the fans that don’t have smartphones or email, or that simply don’t want a digital ticket and would prefer a physical card?

I know to some people this seems like such a pointless issue but for those fans that are in the minority and want a relatively non-complicated way of attending matches this is a really big issue, and the fact that it took pressure from our Supporter Groups to get a concrete answer on a way forward is properly irritating.

So since the club have been pretty coy on this bar allowing the fan groups to communicate the news, and a tweet from Chris Waters, I’ll reiterate that if you want a physical season card next season, all you need to do is visit the ticket office in person from Wednesday to get yours.


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