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sixteen sleeps and counting...
als blog by melanie dudley

Are we as supporters/fans becoming more fickle or is the pleasing of the masses impossible? The transfer window has proven to be really rather eventful for us at Sunderland, we have had he who shall never be mentioned again go to the "big club"…………not my words! We turfed out some of the old, brought in what I see as some good new and debated, debated and debated some more on Borini and Rodriguez.

Most of us have been watching Sunderland for years and remember dark old days, whilst last season was a roller coaster; we still played top flight footie, beat the so called best in their gaffs and had a top trip to Wembley – a season and some games my son and I will never forget. That in my book was the best sh$t season ever.

However, reading on a number of different forums, we seem to have caught mass doom and gloom about our lack of signings and impending relegation as a result. Don't get me wrong, my hair has grown more than 6 inches since we started the Borini debate and I have now stopped reading the articles, however, as we as fans and supporters if our aren't behind the guvnor and the lads before a ball has been kicked, does this make us fickle?! I seem to recall a mass stampede for the Cup Final ticket – the fickle clearly caught the "I Believe" bug.

My beginning of the season optimism is always boundless "this will be our year", yet, I have never had more faith in a manager than I do in Gus. Of course, he got things wrong; he had a mountain to climb last season, I am sure that there will be games in the coming season where the result will not be what we want or hope for. However, if the team (with or without Borini) demonstrate commitment, passion, drive and focus – I will stand and wear my colours with pride, regardless of our positioning within the table.

Sixteen sleeps and counting till the annual shenanigan's begins……..

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first defeat of pre-season...
poyet wants a box to box midfielder

Sunderland were handed their first defeat of pre-season in an encounter with CD Nacional which finished 1-0 to the home side. Gus Poyet believed that we didn't have enough quality to win the game: "When you are a team who tries to control the game in the way we did in the first half you need that extra bit in the final third to open it up. The players in the first half did their best, the movement and passing on a difficult pitch was great. I was delighted at half-time. I knew it would be difficult to maintain that level in the first half. But all the players available played. I thought for 60 minutes we looked a very decent group."

Poyet also responded to the defeat in typical fashion by shedding light on which type of player he needs in his squad, in addition to all the other positions we need to improve upon: "I think we are alright in front of the back four with Liam (Bridcutt) and Lee (Cattermole). We are looking for a box-to-box midfielder who can give us some goals. That's not an easy one. Midfielders who are scoring goals are quite expensive." With Sunderland heavily linked with Jack Rodwell in the past few months, he could be the man to adopt that role if he was to move to Sunderland.

Lee Cattermole took a knock last night, Poyet also explained what Cattermole's problem was: "Lee got a stamp on his ankle and twisted it a little. We put some strapping on it at half-time and it got worse and worse. It's not really a worry. Billy has had a worry in the last few days with tight legs, so 45 minutes was enough for him."

Despite the defeat, Billy Jones believes that the experience gained in Albufeira has been invaluable: "It's been great. Obviously you're with each other day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and out on the training ground twice a day. It's been really tough work, but I'm not just fitter, I know more about what the gaffer wants from the sessions he's put on. For me personally, I've learned a lot this week about what the gaffer and the coaching staff want to do and I think that was evident in the game. I felt more comfortable with decision-making wise and felt those decisions were easier and clearer." And as for the match: "I felt we played some good football and controlled the ball well. We created some chances – the one I had I should have scored from. We kept the ball and played well."

Sunderland could tie up a deal for Santiago Vergini before the end of the week after Poyet has admitted he wants Santi back at the club: "We know Santi well and he was always one of the first choices. It was him, Marcos [Alonso] and Fabio [Borini] who were close. When you know a player well, you know what he is going to add to the group." After heavy links with Chelsea winger Christian Atsu following the news that Sunderland have been given permission to speak to the player over a loan move, our Uruguayan manager heaped uncertainty on the link after responding "No." when asked if Atsu would be joining us. The media are also spewing out further stories which now claim that Borini has agreed a move to Sunderland, but once again, believe it when you see it.

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Seven Days and Seven Sins: Sunderland's Transfer Window Woe...
ALS blog by wise men say's gareth barker

Seven days to bring in four players? An ultimatum of sorts has been issued by Gus and now the pressure is on Sporting Director, Lee Congerton, to deliver. If he doesn't, what then? The transfer window can bring out the worst in all of us. It's a pressurised segment of the football calendar driven by the media, money and mass hysteria.

Seven is Poyet's magic number (Well, you could argue it's four. But then this article wouldn't work, would it? Stay with me on this people). The deadly sins, of which there are seven, punctuate the window quite nicely. Here's how they apply to Sunderland...

Lust

Our pursuit of Fabio Borini. We all love him. As well as being a massive 'wad' he was excellent for us last season. Two goals against the Mags, important penalties and a cup final goal top the list, but his general contribution can't be underestimated. Borini personifies professionalism and hard work.

But at £14m, is there better value out there? Is this a PR exercise from the club, a statement of intent? Personally, I think it's worth splashing out. We've wasted plenty of cash on dreadful players in recent times. We know what we're getting with Fabio. However, he'll be under severe pressure to deliver with that fee over his head.

Does he even want to come? Will the lust cloud the club's judgement? Some would argue we need to move on if he's not interested. That's a fair point. But if we're willing to invest so heavily in him then maybe we should persist until September 1st. If he makes it abundantly clear he's not interested, then it's probably better to move on.

Gluttony

You don't have to look too far to find this when it comes to Sunderland. In two of the last four summer windows our bellies were bloated with new players. Steve Bruce brought in twelve. Roberto De Fanti brought in fourteen. Not many of them were very good. Martin O'Neill took a more slimline approach to transfer dealings. That didn't really work out too well either.

There's a happy medium to be found in there somewhere. It's always a balancing act when overhauling squads, and this is something we have to do with alarming regularity. Getting rid of lots of rubbish players and replacing them with another load of rubbish players seems to be the constant problem.

I think Gus Poyet and Lee Congerton are trying to find that balance and build a squad. Unfortunately, that brings us seamlessly on to...

Greed

Probably the biggest player in football today from all parties.

It's clear from Poyet's most recent comments that finances are an issue. I don't mean we can't afford players, I mean it's all about how much you're willing to pay someone. It's no surprise that some players value themselves higher than an interested party either. It would be foolish to throw a load of cash at targets for the sake of getting them in. It's easy from the outside looking in, but just how much is Marcos Alonso worth in wages, for example? If he rocked up and asked for 40 odd grand a week, what would you think?

There's also an element of greed when it comes to supporters, in my opinion. The transfer window is addictive at times. You want players in. It can get to the stage where it doesn't even matter who they are, as long as they come. The fancier and more exotic the better. We can all guess if they're any good, and pretend we've studied the player intensively during a season via the medium of internet television. What? You mean you don't watch the Peruvian second division highlights program every Tuesday at 3am? And you call yourself a football supporter...

Sloth

Nothing is happening! What's going on? It's all gone quiet. Nothing is coming out of the club. Boooo!

The likelihood is that Lee Congerton is working really hard on getting deals done in the background. That's his job, innit? Just because we don't hear every helicopter that lands at the AoL doesn't mean that business isn't taking place.

Alternatively, Congerton is out every night. Deptford run up from The Kings Arms, Revs, possibly catch last orders at Fitzie G's and then into the Cooper to perve on the dance floor from the upper tier. He needs the days to recover. He can't be ringing agents and that with a stinking hangover. Think on.

Poyet has suggested a few times he wants the players in sooner so he can get working on his team and system in the run up to the start of the season. That's an entirely fair request. We can't get caught figuratively napping in the transfer market, or it could come back to bite us. We know how hard it is to redress a poor start to a season.

Wrath

Go on Twitter. There you will find wrath.

"@TOPPASUNLUNFAN73

AH CANAT BALEEV WER NOT SINGED NEE ONE. FOOK OV OWT OUR CLUB GUS AND BERN AND CONGLETON!!111"

That's not a real tweet (#Bantz). But it is indicative of some things you may see during the window. Lots of tweeting potential targets, asking if they're coming, not getting a reply, getting angry, then unfollowing them, then telling everyone you've unfollowed them.

They don't care that you've unfollowed them. They don't know who you are.

We now have news stories about people accidentally favouriting tweets. We are all responsible. Shame on us.

Envy

I wrote a little bit on this not too long ago. (FEEL FREE TO LINK THAT OLD PIECE HERE) But the fact Newcastle have been fairly active this window. And we haven't, has kind of exacerbated the situation. They're getting all excitable after overhauling their squad. They've replaced what they sold. We haven't.

It's impossible not to be a little envious, but it's important to retain a sense of perspective. There's still plenty of time left in the window to get the players in. That's even if Gus himself has come out and said he'd have preferred those players in earlier. Envy can lead to the actions referenced in 'Gluttony' and 'Greed' and usually gets topped off with plenty of wrath. This is definitely a bad thing.

So don't be envious and look at the bigger picture, even if it is canny hard.

Pride

It'll be fine. Didn't want him anyway. He'll probably be rubbish. The signings we've made are a massive improvement on the players that have left... Many of us, including myself, are often guilty of falling into this trap. Saying these things might make us feel better sometimes, even if they're wrong. Sometimes they're right of course. But sometimes in football, pride in the club can really cloud your judgement. Paolo Di Canio, anyone?

I look as Southampton are picked apart like a discarded pasty by seagulls in the city centre, and some of their fans are still trying to rationalise it. As an outsider looking in, it's really bad. Really, really bad.

It's not really bad at Sunderland yet. But again it's important to be rational and keep a clear head when assessing our situation. As it stands, we will struggle next season. We need to sign new players and better players. I wouldn't say that makes me negative. I'd say it makes me realistic. You might disagree. If you do and tell me why, and if I agree, I won't be too proud to admit I'm wrong. I might slag you off on Twitter though.

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poyet's transfer frustrations...
borini deal may be back on

After a 1-0 win over Recreativo de Huelva where Mikael Mandron netted the winner with a 78th minute penalty, Gus Poyet expressed his frustrations over the lack of transfer activity: "One or two they are close, but if you had asked me last week I would have said those two were close too. I cannot wait another week. We are going to be off Monday and Tuesday, so next Wednesday I need to have four new players. It's clear we need a few new players, and it has not been as quick as I would have expected. It's getting a little close to the part where I really want to work with the main squad. I am like any other manager, the sooner you get the players the better. I hope it is now, today, tomorrow. It's difficult for me because there are things we need to work on this week, and the beginning of next week and that's practically it. (In the last week of pre-season) The only thing you can do is ensure everything is in place and refresh things that you've done."

The deal for Atletico Madrid's Cristian Rodriguez reportedly died on it's arse yesterday, but Poyet has now confirmed that the club have held talks with Fabio Borini: "He is being assessed now for his shoulder injury. That's stopped everything a little bit. We will see. I have not held talks with him, but the club has, although that's private. We know where we stand."

Poyet, who started a young side in the Algarve yesterday before bringing on more senior players in the second half, will start his first team against CD National. He confirmed: "As everybody knows we couldn't make two elevens - we were four or five players short. I didn't want to mix it, I didn't think it was right. So we only used five [senior] players against Recreativo. I decided to bring them on rather than play them from the beginning. They will probably get another 20 minutes tonight [as subs] depending how it goes, but obviously I will look to start with the senior players who did not start last night."

Gus is thrilled to have Patrick van Aanholt at the club after knowing personally what he's capable of: "It's easy to bring in players who you know personally and you know what you are going to get. Patrick needs to get used to plenty of things that we do, nothing difficult but ne needs to get used to it. I am so happy to have him here - every day for two sessions."

Liam Bridcutt also hailed 'Pat' after knowing of his talent during his time at Chelsea: "I was with Pat at Chelsea. we came through the reserves together. He's a very good player, he's shown his quality in training over the last week or so, and hopefully he can take that into the games. He's very quick. With me, I had to drop down a few leagues to build myself up to get here. Pat was like myself, he was at Chelsea, but wasn't getting the opportunities. Now he's got a great chance to come here and work with a top manager."

As for Bridcutt, who didn't feature early in pre-season, he reckons he needed the extra time to find fitness: "I was carrying a little injury from last season. I had to get myself right to get back. It was good to get an opportunity to play last night, playing with the Under-21s who I'm sure as everyone has seen, we've got some great players coming through. It was good to get out there again. I've still been able to do a full pre-season. It was just a case of being cautious really and not rushing into things. All credit to the medical team, they've given me enough time to get right and be ready for the games. I was probably a week behind the lads, but I've caught up with all the running now - early mornings on my own. I think that was the hardest part. When you're with the rest of the lads, you help each other through it, but mentally you've got to dig in when you're on your own."

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Poyet turns up the heat...
fletcher impressed by youngsters

Gus Poyet is keen to start turning up the heat, pun intended, now Sunderland are in the most competitive phase of their pre-season campaign in Portugal. Our manager said: "I have mixed things up in the three games so far, but now we're here in Portugal, I will start to play players for 90 minutes. I've not taken everybody, some have stayed behind, so there will not be the numbers to play two teams. I'm not sure about the first game against Recreativo – it will be a gradual thing – but by the end of the trip the players will be playing for 90 minutes."

Poyet also should some light on the fitness of Liam Bridcutt who hasn't featured thus far in pre-season: "The first three games came too soon for Liam, but he has been training over the last few days. We're hoping he can play 45 minutes tonight because he needs to splay some games."

Steven Fletcher has admitted that he is impressed by some of the younger lads at Sunderland after watching them run circles around the senior team so far in pre-season: "The transfer window is open for a lot longer yet, There's plenty of time for the gaffer to do what he can do. But some of the younger lads have really shown what they can do so far. There's young players here who've not really had a chance yet who have been doing well. There's players who are here for the future." Despite the positive performances of the youngsters, only Charis Mavrias and El Hadji Ba are in the squad which travelled to Portugal.

Costel Pantilimon may be one of the new kids at school, but he reckons that last season's flirt with relegation should not be held as an estimate for how this season will turn out, and did not deter him from joining Sunderland: "The results from last year did not worry me. I know at this moment we have a good manager and good players. It did not scare me or anything like that. I remember the games against Sunderland with Man City last season. We lost the game here, drew at home and we had a difficult game in the Capital One Cup final after they scored the first goal. I came here to help this team. I know about this project and the ideas of the manager. I am sure we are going to do good things. I trust what has happened here. We can do more than what happened last year."

"I have found there are great people here. Since the moment I came here, it has been easy to adapt. I think it will be the same for the other new players. When you have a good team and good staff, it is easy to settle. I know Adam from City. I talked with him. He is a good guy and also a good player."

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Catts enjoying paid holiday...
giaccherini over world cup omission

Sunderland midfield engine Lee Cattermole is enjoying pre-season in the Algarve and believes the warm weather has made all the difference: "We are bonding well, working hard and enjoying it. It's that bit hotter and it makes such a difference. We try to do the same sort of sessions and get the running into us. We will keep on going and get stronger and fitter. Pre-season has been tough - as hard as I've done personally so it's only going to benefit us. Its about getting as many miles in the bank as we can. We train twice [a day] but there are a lot of sessions in there - leg work, core work, stretching, running and football with the tactical stuff."

Emanuele Giaccherini admits that while it was a kick in the bollocks not to be selected for Italy's World Cup squad, he's over it and wants to focus on improving for Sunderland now: "Yes, the World Cup was very disappointing. But Mr Prandelli choose 23 players and for me, I'm always grateful for him because he brought me into the national team in the first place. I always thank him for that, no problem. But I obviously wasn't happy. Now I just think about the Premier League. The World Cup is gone. My concentration is on Sunderland. Last year is gone now. I got five goals and five assists. I didn't play every game, but when I did, it was OK. I think I can get better this year. I've experienced the first year, and I saw the league, the players and the stadiums. I want to stay at Sunderland. Obviously, if Sunderland don't want me, we will see. But my intention is to stay here."

Giaccherini also commented on our transfer activity: "Borini, I don't know, but I hope he comes here. I'm not sure what he wants. For me, we need other players in this team because in the Premier League, it is important to have a group with 25 good players. We lost a lot of players at the end of last season. I just think about playing and Sunderland can think about buying!"

We are still pursuing Atletico Madrid's Cristian Rodriguez and it is believed that the midfielder will join Sunderland, it is just unclear when. It was initially reported that Rodriguez may join as soon as today, but conflicting reports have suggested that the deal isn't as straight forward as that. Borini was of course meant to be joining two weeks ago, so I think the best course of action is to not expect anything like!

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Pva loves sunlun...
rodriguez close to joining?

New signing Patrick van Aanholt reckons it was an easy decision to join Sunderland, as he wants to play in the Premier League. The Dutchman said: "I thought about it for a second and said 'Yes', I would love to come to Sunderland'. It's a great club and a great opportunity for me to play in the Premier League. It's a good opportunity for me after two-and-a-half years in Holland and a couple more loans in the Championship. I want to prove myself in the Premier League so everyone can see what kind of player I am and what I'm capable of doing. I had a couple more offers from different coaches but I said no I want to stay in the Premier League." I also heard that he wanted to join Sunderland because he is a man who likes a takeaway, and the prospect of visiting Pallion Road, a takeaway haven, was just too good to turn down.

Uruguayan midfielder Cristian Rodriguez is believed to be extremely close to a move to Sunderland, the Athletico Madrid player may even be revealed in the next day or do. Gus Poyet is very keen to bring a Uruguayan to the club, and with Rodriguez operating mainly as a left winger, he may be ideal for our current setup.

Fabio Borini may still move to Sunderland on another loan deal should the player reject Sunderland permanently. Fabio is currently injured and has returned home from Liverpool's pre-season camp in Boston, but Gus Poyet is determined to bring last season's star man to the club. My advice to fans would be don't hold it against Borini if he doesn't want a permanent move and for this saga dragging on; Liverpool are a bigger club, he has the opportunity to play in the Champions League and his lass is from Liverpool, let's just hope he changed his mind because we all know he's a massive lads fan really.

Sunderland ladies maintained their position at the top of FA WSL 2 with a 1-1 draw at Doncaster Rovers Belles. They had previously won every game so far this campaign, but a battle against second placed Doncaster saw them equalise courtesy of a wonderstrike from Rachel Furness. Sunderland ladies are mint.

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Paddy van Aanholt...
n'diaye on the plane

Sunderland have completed the signing of left back Patrick van Aanholt from Chelsea. The Dutch defender has joined on a four year deal, the 23 year old becoming our fourth summer signing and the first we've bought outright as opposed to being a free transfer.

In a positive twist for all you Alfred N'Diaye fans out there (I know I'm not the only one), N'Diaye has travelled with Sunderland to Portugal to continue their pre-season camp. Big Alf was anticipating to be left at home, with him being subject of interest from a number of other clubs including Real Betis, but it appears that he must have impressed Poyet in pre-season, as he'll be playing a part in our next pre-season adventure, unless of course they're just taking him to Portugal because it's closer to Spain. I dinnar.

El Hadji Ba is a lad full of ambition and wants to make something out of himself at Sunderland, he craves more game time: "I just want to play as many matches as possible. I'm not looking at anything else. I learned a lot last year – both from the way of training here and from the other players. It's a different type of football from France, but I've learned lots. It's important for me to keep improving. It's good to play alongside experienced players. There are certain things that they do which I see and help me to improve – just the little things which you look to take from them and put into your own game. Every match is important for me to gain form and continue my progress. Pre-season is a way to impress the manager, but that's the same for everyone. Everyone wants to get their place in the side."

Ba, who has had an impressive pre-season so far, with a positive performance against Hartlepool under his belt, is looking forward to his time in Portugal: "We're playing a few matches in Portugal to continue our progress and keep raising our fitness levels. You need to be ready because the Premier League is so physical. We did a few things badly against Hartlepool (on Wednesday) that we obviously need to improve upon. But now, it is all about the minutes. We've been training hard, training on the morning of the matches which is tough physically. That's what pre-season is all about though. You need to put in the work to get your form when the season starts."

Finally, Sunderland are back in for Santiago Vergini. After a dreadful start to his Sunderland career, Vergini transformed himself into a very capable right back at the back end of last season. With Billy Jones already occupying the role, it would be unclear if Poyet would wish to still play Santiago in that role or push him into the centre. Poyet said: "Vergini is still ongoing. We started a bit late because of different issues. But, yes, it's still a possibility." I'm not convinced Vergini doesn't have a calamitous streak in him, after his start at the club, but we could do a lot worse. Any Vergini fans out there?

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woah, we're ganning to the algarve...
woah, we're garna watch some footy

Sunderland are heading to Portugal to continue their pre-season campaign and get some warm-weather training in. This training is essential according to Gus Poyet in preparing for the season ahead. Gus said: "At the start it's a mix between the fitness and the football, and there is a time – the one we're going to spend in Portugal – which is tactically fundamental. For me, those 10 days, three games and probably 14 or 15 training sessions are the key."

Wes Brown is also up for the trip: "We are looking forward to it but we know it is going to be tough, we will be focused and hopefully we will get through it injury free so we are fully prepared for the new season. The gaffer likes to get his tactics across and he knows how he wants us to play, that will play a big part in our season and it is something we will continue to work on during our time in Portugal."

Billy Jones echoed the sentiment: "Pre-season trips are about going away and being in each other's pockets, you get to find out how everyone is and how they work. We have three tough games scheduled during our time over there so it will be a good test. As a player you want tough games during pre-season because you know that when it comes to the first game in the Premier League that is exactly what you are going to get."

Poyet has hinted that Danny Graham will not be on the plane to Portugal however: "Danny has had a spasm in his back," said Poyet in the Sunderland Echo. "He hasn't trained for five days. I was trying to play him in one of the three games this week. But I'm not taking the whole squad to Portugal. There are people who are going to stay here. Danny is one of them. As everyone knows, we've got Fletch, Jozy and Connor, plus Fabio (Borini) if he comes in. It will be very difficult for Danny to be part of that group."

Speaking of misfiring strikers, the boss has also confirmed that Jozy Altidore will be in Portugal witht he rest of the squad after recovering for his hamstring injury sustained during the World Cup: "Jozy will be in Portugal with us. He will fly directly to Portugal today. I've been in touch with him and he is fine, fully fit – his hamstring is no problem. It's going to be a short pre-season for him and he's going to have to run a little bit in Portugal, apart from playing football with us in the afternoons. It was difficult for Jozy last year, but hopefully he can become an important player for us this season."

Uruguayan midfielder Cristian Rodriguez has been on our radar for a while now, but Gus Poyet is making no firm comments about the 28 year old Atletico Madrid man: "This has been out for a few days, and this week I had a chat with people in Uruguay, who are obviously desperate for Rodriguez to come with us. It's ongoing. At the moment it's a possibility, but it's no more than that. He's a player that I admire a lot because he's got power, desire and experience playing with the top teams. He wants to play football, he's desperate to be playing week-in, week-out. There are plenty of positives, but there is something you need to do (agreeing a deal) before having a player like that available."

We may also make a move for Chelsea full back Patrick van Aanholt. Sunderland are severely thin in theat department, I'm not sure thin's the word, we have practically nee-one, and with the Dutch international in the last year of his contract, we may be able to get him relatively on the cheap given that the 23 year old comes highly rated.

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the kids are all right...
better than the first team

After a 3-0 win over Hartlepool where the kids ran riot, Gus Poyet is full of praise for the youngsters: "We were talking in the dressing room after the game - we should ask for permission to play the kids for the last half-an-hour of every game! It's important the way that they came on and wanted to show everyone in the first team that they want to be a part of things. They have some quality and you can see from the understandings they have built up that they have been working together for a little while."

"We are still mixing the players but, first-team wise, today was totally different to yesterday - there was a bit more energy and understanding. We created more chances, and all we were missing is goals and they will come. Overall, I was very pleased. The first-team players did well and the kids were exceptional." Poyet was also happy with Adam Johnson linking up with Steven Fletcher: "Johnno was desperate to play and he linked up well with Fletch. I'm sure he's going to have an even better season this year with us than he did last."

One youngster who has shone since he joined the club is Duncan Watmore, and he is dying to break into the first team. Watmore said: "It's a great experience and a great opportunity, and a platform to show my abilities, and try to give the manager something to think about. I'm loving the experience at the moment, and I'll see how long it continues. I want to get to the very top, and then hopefully if I keep impressing the manager here, he'll give me chances, and I'll be able to show what I can do. You just have to wait for your opportunity, and when it comes, take it as best you can. Hopefully, with a bit of luck, you never know. The ultimate goal is to become a regular first-team member. You've got to wait, but also never forget why you're doing it."

He continued: "I think last Saturday was the first time I'd played right-back in my career, and it was alongside John O'Shea. It's not a bad mentor to have! You've just got to learn from these experienced players like (Lee) Cattermole and Seb (Larsson). All the first-team lads have been great. They want to make you a better player fundamentally. Their experience is phenomenal, and you want to take that on board. I'm learning as I go along at full-back, and I'm enjoying it. It's a new experience, but I don't mind it at all. If I'm playing, I don't care where it is."

"We were pleased with the first 60 minutes, we created chances, although we didn't quite finish them. Then the U21s came on and stole the show and rightly so because they were awesome. They deserve the credit they get because they work hard and it was great for them to get that experience."

After being linked with a move for Marseille's Morgan Amalfitano, Poyet has ruled out that link: "Right now, I will say there is not a real interest in Amalfitano. I followed him when he was at Lorient before he went to Marseille, so I know the player from four years ago. It was nice to see him in England playing last season. But in that position, we're looking for a second striker – which will hopefully be Fabio Borini – and pace, whereas Morgan has more ability on the ball."

Poyet reckons the wait for new players is getting on his nerves: "I'm waiting and waiting, which is not nice," said Poyet. You're expecting to do a couple of deals, but they're not happening. People say don't be anxious or nervous. I think there will be at least one in by tomorrow, and I hope at the weekend we can have three in. But the word I'm saying is 'hope'. It's a matter of time, but as the days go past, that becomes difficult. We are waiting, we are desperate to do something in the next few days because we are going to Portugal, and we need to have as many players as possible in place by the time we get there."

Also, Borini got injured last night, so whether that jeopardises a move to Sunderland, assuming a move to Sunderland was ever on the cards, remains to be seen.

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match report...
hartlepool 0-3 Sunderland

Sunderland won 3-0 at Hartlepool in a game where the kids won it for us again! A goal from Carl Lawson and a brace from Andrew Cartwright saw the bairns well and truly show up the proper first team. Have we seen some future stars tonight?

After a pretty boring 1-0 victory over Carlisle, Sunderland would be looking to put in a more convincing performance against pre-season regulars Hartlepool. With a significant amount of first teamers in the squad last night, Gus Poyet obviously had rotation in mind against the Pools.

Pantilimon

Watmore, Roberge, O’Shea, Ferguson

Cattermole, Larsson, Ba

Clayton, Johnson

Fletcher

Pantilimon in between the sticks tonight instead of Mannone, all 6 foot 8 of him. Ferguson and Watmore filling in as make shift full backs, Watmore having performed well in the role earlier in pre-season. Clayton back amongst the first teamers again as well. I like the look of Clayton, for a million pounds compensation though he will have to do more.

The game started with an early chance for Hartlepool, a cross not dealt with at the far post by Watmore was nearly turned in, but missed only narrowly. Marlon Harewood was leading the line for the monkey hangers, the last I heard of him he was playing in China. I remember a Cup Final where he played a blinder for West Ham against Liverpool, I think it went to penalties and Liverpool won. He's still as big now, perhaps bigger, but it's probably not all muscle anymore. Either way, he started getting the better of Valentin Roberge in every 50/50 and made Roberge well aware of it. The French defender had the shits put up him early on and was hesitant from then on in the game, inflating the poor qualities to his game, I'm not a Roberge man.

Watmore did well attacking from deep and after a slick lay-off from Lee Cattermole, found himself running into the box from the right hand side, executing a powerful cross/shot which flashed across the face of goal, begging for Connor Wickham to get on the end of it (ambitious, I know). Hartlepool were causing a few problems on the right hand side, and after their winger flew past Ferguson and Roberge, a cross was there to be put in, only out of nowhere came Lee Cattermole with a tackle which simultaneously both blocked the path of the ball and took the player out in his follow-up run, thus not warranting a foul. Cracking block/tackle/snap, typical Catts. El Hadji Ba also fancied himself as a bit of a bruiser, putting in a crunching tackle, winning the ball cleanly but the ref blew for a foul anyway. Ba had a good game, Has looked the best of the three youngsters we signed last summer, with Mavrias not really getting much game time to impress even though he probably is the best one.

A nice bit of passing between Clayton and Johnson saw Larsson teed off at the edge of the box, but his smashed shot was blocked by the chest of a Hartlepool defender. Fletcher then came close after Johnson slipped the ball through to the striker, the shot from Fletch curling past the keeper and smacking off the outside of the post however.

Throughout the first half Sunderland opted to play the ball back to the giant that is Pantilimon a couple of times, each time he mis-hit the ball and it went out for a throw. Distribution definitely not his strong point, he's class at dusting the top of the fridge though.

Nowts a piece at half time, but a decent showing. Marlon Harewood was the biggest attacking threat for them, not in his shooting but his presence as a target man, he likes the chest and lay off as you would expect from a brick-shithouse such as him, it's been done to death. He came off at half time though and Hartlepool looked impotent from then on.

From the 50th minute to around the 58th saw the game go up a few gears, some high pace passing and wing play allowed both teams to have a few half chances, usually blocked by the opposing defence prompting a counter attack. John O'Shea nutmegged someone which is now up there with Matt Kilgallon's rabona against Man City and that Steed Malbranque double nutmeg on James Milner. The spell was ended with the best chance, Max Clayton burst down the wing, flashing a ball in for Fletcher but the Scotsman just couldn't turn it in. Then Gus made 11 changes and brought the kids on. From then it was a piece of piss really.

It was a real special atmosphere to welcome the youngsters to the fray, the biggest cheer of the night came as those lads entered the pitch, I felt a bit emotional actually with the welcome they were given by Sunderland fans. You could tell it meant a lot to them from their faces, and probably more from the way they responded to it on the pitch.

GOAL – Sunderland – Carl Lawson – 70 mins

After some extremely neat passing from Sunderland, and about a 5 minute spell of solid possession, no exaggeration, they found an opening when Carl Lawson played a clever one-two with Mikael Mandron and then curled the ball into the bottom corner of the net from outside the box. Really good finish. The lads celebrated as if they'd won a cup final, chuffed for them.

GOAL – Sunderland – Andrew Cartwright – 72 mins

Again, a fantastic piece of play saw Andrew Cartwright slotted into the box after making a surging run from deep, he shook off the pressuring defender and dinked the ball past the keeper. Absolutely cracking forward play. Liquid football, as Partridge would say.

Mikael Mandron is an imposing figure in the youth side, he likes the ball played to feet with his back to goal and is often used as a pivot point, it's a system which has obviously been tried and tested in the youth sides and I'd love to see him in the first team more often. Saying that, he's by no means the finished article but he's a big lad for his age, and looks promising.

GOAL - Sunderland – Andrew Cartwright – 77 mins

Cartwright surged down the right hand side and sent a cross into a dangerous area of the box. It took a big deflection and flew straight in at the near-post past the keeper. Hard lines for Hartlepool like but we were well on top at that point, moving the ball around silkily and calmly. The match finished 3-0.

What do we take from it? Our academy is by no means shite. I'm a logical lad though, if there were any world beaters in the youth team I'm sure they'd already be in the first team squad or at another club, but we did see some flashes of brilliance from a few lads who may well stress the point that we should look to integrate the youth team more into the first team setup. Either way, great showing from the kids and a much better trip to Teeside than the last time under O'Neill. I'm not journeying to Portugal like so hopefully there's some streams on the go. :)

Final score: Hartlepool 0-3 Sunderland

ALS Man of the Match: El Hadji Ba/Little Andy Cartwright

Chris Thompson

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sobs @ pools...
young guns having some fun

Lulled into a false sense of security by yesterday’s heat on the other side of the Pennines, we took the short trip across to Hartlepool in our shorts and T-shirts, to be greeted by the local micro-climate – the notorious sea-breeze and accompanying dampness, making it a good deal cooler than our previous match. As the local Herring Gulls, a sub-species at least twice the size of your  common or garden Herring Gull, circled overhead on the off-chance of someone dropping their guard and leaving their chips exposed, the Lads lined up exactly as Pete had predicted on the way over.

Pantillimon
Watmore O’Shea Roberge Ferguson
Johnson Larsson Cattermole Ba
Clayton
Fletcher

As the visiting fans spread from the West stand to the North stand, we were treated to a game starting with the masts of a tall ship in view over the stand, something you don’t see too often. Unless you’re a Poolie, of course.  Kicking South (that’s to the right of most of us), there were a lot more players looking like they wanted to be there than last night. With Catts and Seb doing the standard central midfield stuff, Ba moved about nicely a bit further forward and Max Clayton (Private Investigator, $500 an hour plus expenses) zipped about impressively on the left and inside, with Johnson on the right. Fletch was allegedly alone up front, but got plenty of support from midfield.

Watmore, allegedly a forward for the future when we bought him, was again at right back, and looked canny, moving forward every time he could, and Ferguson was at left back, defending efficiently. O’Shea and Roberge did what they had to, and there was plenty of passing out of trouble. Although there were no goals, Johnson curled one just wide before switching to the left with Ba coming right, and Fletch almost got on the end of a couple of moves, hitting the post with a follow-up, and things looked a whole lot more positive. Pools chased around, but they were hampered by their awful change kits of mostly black with a hi-vis orangey middle bit, appearing for all the world as if they still had their training bibs on. Oh, and they had Tommy Miller – yes, that one - and Marlon Harewood who put their experience to good use and helped Pools play a bit of football. Unlike last night, we weren’t that bothered that it was goal-free at the break, and for two reasons – we looked like a team in a practice match, rather a bunch of footballers in a training session, and we had the bairns to unleash on the hour.

So there were no changes as the break, we continued where we left off in the first half, and almost got the goal we’d been threatening – it was as if those on the field knew they only had fifteen minutes before their day’s work would be done. One occasion saw O’Shea play a 1-2 with his own keeper, then roll the ball past his opponent, run past him, and pass the ball upfield – finishing the thing off by turning to look at the Sunderland fans and puffing his chest out to emphasis the quiet “whoop” he let out. It put a smile on our faces, and it’s nice to see players having a bit of a laugh with the crowd.

Fletch dived at Clayton’s driven cross but it was just too far from his brow, and the ball flashed past the post. As the hour approached, we saw the training tops come off at the far side, and they lined up ready for action. The announcer called it right – “leaving the field for Sunderland – the entire team. Coming on, a variety of substitutions.”

Pickford (Bradford bound) Cartwright, Robson, Harrison, Beadling, Agnew, Honeyman, Martin Smith (no, not that one), Gooch, Lawson, Mandron

Just like last night, the bairns played their high-tempo, crisp-passing game, taking advantage of the opposition having chased Premier league players for an hour, and performing as if it was a Cup Final that needed to be won. Gooch didn’t see as much of the ball on the right as at Carlisle, but when he did he showed his fullback a clean pair of heels. Again, Mandron was the focus of the attack, holding things up and laying things off. Again, the ball moved around quickly and the bairns weren’t rushed into anything. Again, it took ten minutes to strike, and again it went across the keeper from the left, but this came at the end of a lovely move and saw Lawson curl a right-footer wide of the keeper and into the far side. We were up on our feet applauding not so much in celebration of a goal, but in appreciation of a really good goal.

Two minutes later, we were up again. Cartwright bombed up from right-back and joined in another lovely short-passing move and was in the right place to swap passes with Gooch and knock it past the keeper from close in. Lovely – and it wasn’t over. Madly, for a Sunderland full-back, young Andrew charged forward soon after onto a ball played out wide into his path, and his firm low cross took a significant deflection off a defender and flew into the net. On our feet again to applaud the third goal in seven minutes.

Game over result-wise, but the Bairns (they’ve earned a capital B tonight) wouldn’t let Pools off the hook, getting forward at speed and continuing to pass the ball well.

So the 3,000-odd visiting fans in the 5,000-odd crowd went home happy. The old pros had looked interested, and the young guns had looked very impressive –which could bump up attendance at “reserve” games this season. We’d seen two excellent goals and a cracking third, and a full-back score twice. We got to see a starting eleven numbered one to eleven for the second night running, and a second half team numbered twelve to twenty two for the second night running – and everybody had two boots of the same colour.

Man of the Match? The first half contained a few decent showings, and while Watmore may not be a Premier full-back – get one signed sharpish, Gus we know you want to - he looked decent and attacked well. Ferguson was fine at the other side, but the pick might possibly have been Ba, mainly because we’ve not seen him play that well for that long. There might be a few of those young Lads heading to Portugal in a few days. The second half was full of positive performances, but I’ll probably hand it to young Cartwright for getting two.
A nice night out. Keep the Faith

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Poyet happy with youngsters...
unhappy with transfers

After a 1-0 win over Carlisle where our U21 squad won the game for us, Gus Poyet has heaped praise on the young guns. He said: "I'm delighted for the kids. I said to them before they went on that they had a great chance to win the game for us and they showed great spirit to get that goal. They celebrated as if we were qualifying for a European league! We knew about heavy legs and how tired they are. They trained yesterday morning this group of players and ran a lot. People don't know that, but they came here and were tired. It's not an excuse, but it's true. Players want to be fresh to perform. But I'm not worried about the performance at all. It's about seeing the desire and the commitment of the players every time they put that Sunderland shirt on. They need to make sure they give their maximum if they want to be here. It's an hour they've gone through. Now in Portugal we'll be able to play 90 minutes, come back and be fully fit for the Premier League."

Speaking of youngsters, trailist Max Clayton will be given another chance to shine against Hartlepool, the player having already had a good game against Darlington recently. Poyet explained: "He's playing tonight. I want to see him in a different game with different players and make a final decision. I don't think after seeing him running in pre-season for two weeks and then having 45 minutes of football, it's enough to make a decision on him." Adam Johnson is also set to return against Pools, whereas Liam Bridcutt will sit it out according to Poyet: "Liam trained with us today, but he won't play tonight. He will play in Portugal."

Poyet commented yesterday in typical enigmatic fashion on the likelihood of bringing Marcos Alonso to the club on a permanent basis:" It's close, but not close enough. Everything is on track. It's just like I explained before. These deals for everything to come together, so many people need to be happy. It's not that easy. We need to look at other things as well because depending on how much you spend on a player, it depends what else you've got. We're trying hard. It's been a bit more difficult than I expected, but we're not going to stop."

The Uruguayan's additional comments suggested unrest in the camp after only 3 signings have been tied up thus far: "It's difficult to say how much progress has been made in a number - 50 per cent or 75 per cent," added Poyet. But we're trying. Days go past and there are things that we need to do quickly because Portugal is approaching and we want most of the squad in there. My idea was to have probably 20 of my 23 squad in Portugal. That's not the case. I'm working for it and I'm believing, until that changes. It's just an ongoing situation which is not easy. The market is only on with big, big signings and big transfers. The rest are all waiting, I don't know why. It's not my job, so I think it's better if you ask (sporting director) Lee Congerton."

And finally the gaffer offered some insight on the transfer of Fabio Borini, who a few of you may be forgiven for getting a bit tired of, but news is news! Gus said: "I can assure you though that there is no disappointment on my part that it has not happened yet. It is normal. And with all respect to the media, they do not know everything that is going on. It is not for me to explain but it is not just a question of Fabio wanting to come or not. There are many, many things to look at and unfortunately I cannot comment on those. We are involved in negotiations and you never know how long that can take. There's nothing new to report as things stand but we are still hoping to close the deal completely."

"It's up to Fabio. We have been clear, everything is fine, there's no doubt about his connection with our club and me and him get along fine, so there is no reason for it not to happen. I would love to know how long it will take to sort out but all I can tell you is that things are changing every day. We have targets that we are looking for, we have other options, but we have an agreement with Liverpool and we will do everything possible to get Fabio to the club first. If Fabio does not come, it does not set us back, we would move on - we are not a one-player team. But I hope the fact that we are after players like him shows the quality of players that we are trying to bring to the club. It shows we are committed and prepared to spend money. But now we are looking to move on with other players too because it is not just about one player it is about the whole squad and there are other areas to look at. He's a player that everyone wants to see but our transfer work this summer is not just about one player, it's about the squad and there are other situations we need to work out. Obviously things become clearer once we know what will happen with Fabio. But we are still able to progress in other areas and it is important that we do."

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Sobs' craic...
carlisle 0-1 Sunderland

The last time I drove to Carlisle to see the Lads, Tony Towers scored, which sort of meant it was about time I did it again, especially after missing Saturday's goalfest in my home town. So, as there would be three of us on the return journey, I had to borrow a car, as I had back in the '70s, and with the weather being of the decidedly sunny variety, the lack of a removable roof was a real miss. So Ronnie and I swapped holiday stories, zipped across the A69, and narrowly avoided being wiped out by a wagon carrying portaloos. I have his (or her) registration, and the company's phone number, so his (or her) boss will be instructed to give him (or her) a hefty boot up the bracket in the morning.

The road system in Carlisle having changed somewhat since last time I drove there, and having seen the Sunderland buses heading the other way, we decided to stop and check the map thingy on the phone. Brunton Park was less than 100 yards away – my natural instinct for football grounds had clicked into action and delivered us safely (just) to exactly where we wanted to be. So we wandered into town, decided on the Caledonian as I couldn't remember any of the places I'd visited before our last friendly (that turned out to be anything but) and Pete arrived via train soon after. The landlord was from Sunderland, so we had a bit craic about the football, and the accident on the A69 that had nothing to do with portaloos but had delayed some folks, apparently.

Our seats faced directly into the setting sun, so the away section was a sweaty place as the Lads lined up, kicking right to left, in a formation that had us scratching our heads and consulting the knowledgeable-looking folks in the crowd to ascertain who was who. Oh, and wondering where the Carlisle Fox was.

Vito

Mavrias Brown Diakite (yes, honest) Jones

Cabral (yes, honest) Gomez N'Diaye (yes, honest)

Karlsson Wickham Giaccherini

By the time we'd worked out who was who – well, some of us had, but most hadn't – Cabral had showed a touch like a cement wagon to present the home side with a corner when it was supposed to be a back-pass. Let's just say it's a good job it wasn't on target. That was cleared, but Vito had to pull off a couple of saves as Carlisle looked like a team and we looked like a bunch of blokes, some of whom didn't want to play, and most of whom didn't want to get hurt. Big Alf fired wide, Giaccherini seemed to have a bet on that he'd not get a shot away all night, and Mavrias kept swapping the full-back spot with Cabral, then Diakite decided he'd had enough, limping off before we'd had chance to get the sub ready. Tom McNamee was the lucky replacement, but when Brown tried to include him in the Gus way of play by passing to him, Tom gave it straight back. Twice.

With the defence looking a bit disorganised to say the least, it took the cool head of Brown and the nice touches of Jones to keep Carlisle out. Their winger, Amoo, wasn't afraid to run at us, and we had to be alert to keep his shots away from the goal. There was a swift offside decision to chalk off a goal against us as the break approached, and that was the end of a half lacking, from the visiting fans' point of view, anything to shout about, and most of us were glad to see the back of it. The break was enlivened by some what I call lively discussions between those Sunderland fans who consider swearing as much and as loudly as possible, and those who thought it a bit naff. Look, it only rhymes with front and brunt, and that means song possibilities are limited.

Anyway, the second half arrived with less than the expected number of changes – none – and we continued to look second best in most departments, so it was no surprise when the changes began before ten minutes were up. First, Karlsson made way for Gooch, and he immediately lit up the right wing with some deft touches and impressive bursts of speed. That's better, we thought, then a few minutes later everybody the newspapers had heard of left the field and the rest of the "development squad" sprinted on, and the game changed completely. All of a sudden, we were a team, and those lads had played together before. Like a teamsheet from Hetton, we had Dixon in goal, in front of Cartwright, McNamee (who was mightily relieved to have his mates rather than big blokes like Brown around him) Beadling, and Robson. Midfield was Smith, Agnew (no, not that Smith or that Agnew), Lawson, and Honeyman, and Gooch flitted between this and Mandron. The bairns ponged the ball about quickly –sometimes perhaps releasing it a bit too soon, but they were keen enough to chase everything and be positive. We still had to clear the ball off the line a couple of times, but Carlisle had been knocked out of their stride by the change in pace of the game.

They brought on Paul Thirlwell to remind us of the old days, but soon after this Honeyman returned the ball to Mandron in the box (some teeny hint of offside, my mate reckoned, but as the linesman had been sharp and correct so far, we'll accept his judgement) and he fired low across the keeper and just inside the post with his left peg. A very well- worked and well-finished goal with 20 minutes left, and it lifted us a little bit more. Amoo, who'd been running out of steam even more than his team-mates, went off and that left Carlisle with very little in the way of threat. We came close to a second a number of times, but perhaps tried to play a few too many one-twos rather than simply go for goal – but hey, a win's a win. A game of two halves, and while it was nice to see the bairns lift the tempo and secure the victory, we were really more interested in the new signings, and those who have been out of sight and out of mind.

Jones looked comfortable even on the left, and seems to be a decent footballer who doesn't do silly things, and is keen to get forward when the opportunity presents itself – he was probably our best player of the first half. Gomez had his moments, but sometimes was either knocked off the ball too easily, or held on to it too long. Of the three who've been away – Diakite, N'Diaye, and Cabral – erm, nothing we saw tonight would have had Gus handing them a lifeline at the club. Catch 22, really – on the one hand, if you think you don't have much of a future, you're not going to risk a knackered knee in a friendly and bugger up a potential transfer, but on the other, you're hardly going to impress any watching scouts by treating it as the training exercise it undoubtedly was for the "first-teamers."

Of those who played the second half, Gooch and Mandron stood out, the first for carrying and delivering the ball well, the other for playing like a proper centre forward, and showing a good bit of pace and control. Overall, I'd give Man of the Match to Gooch – I like the look of him. Mandron looked to have promise before an injury last season, so this term he needs to earn some chances in the first team, and he needs to take them to avoid being another "nearly but not quite" story.

I suspect we'll see very few of tonight's performers at Hartlepool tomorrow, so we spent the homeward journey trying to decide what the starting eleven would be. As some thoughtful natives had decided to deploy two hug tractors into the heart of the departing traffic, we had a fair amount of time to do this – but still couldn't.

Never mind, we'll find out at about half seven.

Keep the Faith

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Carlisle 0-1 Sunderland...
match report by chris thompson

Sunderland won 1-0 away at Carlisle in pre-season courtesy of a 70th minute Mikael Mandron goal. The game saw Sunderland make a load of subs in the second half and the goal was scored with a team consisting entirely of U21 players. The future's bright, and all that.

After a cracking performance against Darlington which saw Sunderland win 5-1, fans were once again drawn into the whole 'we're gonna win the league' vibe which we can often feel in pre-season. A nice evening in Carlisle will be followed up by a trip to Hartlepool tomorrow night, hopefully with the same level of sunshine. LOVELY DAY.

Team sheets came in, only Wickham's name was spelt wrong, number 9 was listed as Scocco/Karlsson despite the former not being on the continent (reportedly) and only a few of the players had first names. Madheads.

Mannone;

Jones, Diakite, Brown, Mavrias,

Cabral, Gomez, N'Diaye,

Karlsson, Giaccherini, Wickham.

Mavrias playing as a full back again, as we don't have any left backs at the club. Standard. Subs were Cartright, Dixon, Robson, Beadling, Mcnamee, Agnew, Honeyman, Smith, Gooch, Lawson, Mandron, so a really youthful side out there overall, with the rest of the senior squad presumably being rested for tomorrow night against Hartlepool.

Cabral started the game by passing the ball straight out for a corner, in a Nyron Nosworthy-esque move. N'Diaye went close with a low shot but Carlisle keeper Mark Gillespie was forced into making the save. Pacey David Amoo went up the other end and tested Vito Mannone, the Italian keeper managing to block the shot. Amoo was a thorn in our side when we played Carlisle in the cup last season, no surprise to see the former Liverpool winger giving us problems so early on.

Carlisle definitely started the game better, Billy Paynter found himself with an excellent chance but Mannone made a great save to keep the score level, Paynter probably should have scored. Our first real chance of the game came courtesy of a Jordi Gomez corner which flashed across the face of the goal, Wes Brown nearly got a touch to force it over the line but the Carlisle defence managed to get it clear. Diakite went down injured soon after and left the field pointing to his knee. Tom McNamee replaced him.

Amoo came close to scoring again, but his shot this time was blocked courtesy of Wes Brown's face. Smacked straight off his pyat, he was alright though, hard bastard. Giaccherini then went down after a hefty challenge from Carlisle's Archibald-Henville but after looking like he may be in pain for a minute or two, re-entered the field. Maybe just a dead leg like.

Billy Jones then showed a real flash of quality, picking up the ball and beating 3 or 4 players, playing a neat one-two with Connor Wickham before having a strike himself, the keeper managed to get a block to it but not enough to keep it out, luckily for him there was a covering player on the line to clear it. Great play from Jones. Carlisle had the ball in the net right before half time after a goalmouth scramble but it was ruled out for offside. 0-0 at the half.

Carlisle came out for the second half still on top, Mannone having to make a save but two minutes into the second half. Lynden Gooch came on for Moberg Karlsson at around the 53 minute mark, then about 5 minutes after that, all first team players came off and 9 subs came on, making the team as follows:

Dixon,

Cartwright, Beadling, McNamee, Robson,

Agnew, Smith, Honeyman, Lawson,

Gooch, Mandron

The young squad were tested straight away, with a great attack from David Amoo forcing Tom Robson into clearing the ball off the line. Paul Thirlwell then came on for Carlisle to cheers from both sets of fans. Paul Thirlwell is my favourite ex-Sunderland player who's first name is Paul and second name ends with -well.... behind Paul Bracewell.

GOAL – Sunderland – Mikael Mandron – 70 mins

Mandron played a tidy one-two with George Honeyman who featured against Darlington, made some great movement down the left hand side of the penalty area and fired a low shot into the far corner past the helpless keeper. Really good finish from a player who has looked promising in the past but never been given a stretch in the first team.

David Amoo came off for Carlisle who had in truth been their only real creative outlet all game and it looked as though the Sunderland youngsters were more than content to see out the rest of the match. It was announced that 1,123 Sunderland fans made the journey down to Carlisle, which is mental really. Over a thousand people going down there for a pre-season match on a Tuesday night. We really do have the best support.

The match finished 1-0 to Sunderland ensuring our 100% record in pre-season still lives. A canny boring match in truth, but good to see so many of the young lads get a run out, and ultimately they were the ones who won the match tonight. Class goal from Mandron, hopefully we'll see more of him in the future. We're gonna win the league.

Final Score: Carlisle 0-1 Sunderland

ALS Man of the Match: Mikael Mandron

Chris Thompson

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borini saga drags on...
scocco still leaving zzzzzz

After an already lengthy saga surrounding the transfer of Fabio Borini, the player's agent Marco De Marchi has claimed that Borini wants to stay at Liverpool. De Marchi said: "Borini wants to remain on Merseyside. Sunderland have made a large offer of €18 million to sign him, but Fabio wants to stay at Liverpool. His project with Liverpool started two years ago when he left Roma – he began a journey and it is a major project for him. He should not be judged on his first year - he was out for six months with injuries and during the past year he took a step back by going to Sunderland and he had an extraordinary season. His future? Now, after the loan, Liverpool have not told me anything. I think he will stay, he is convinced he will play."

It also seems as though Gus Poyet is resigned to losing Nacho Scocco, the player having been expected to move from the club for about 2 months now. Poyet said: "My first idea, and I knew it would be difficult, was to use Nacho last season to help us get out of the problems we were in. It was always going to be difficult for a player who had played in Argentina and Brazil over the last year to come to the English Premier League. We were in a fight and he's not that type of player – he needed us to be controlling games in order for him to do his bit. The type of player he is, we were not playing to his strengths – he needs to be in a team that is on top in games. So my idea then was to take the close season to improve the team and to improve Nacho in terms of him being used to the environment over here and the football itself. But there are options now and everything is being analysed. We will see what happens over the next few days." This is the first time Gus Poyet has admitted that options are being considered for Scocco, a player who he presumably was keen on making something of himself at Sunderland.

Poyet has also hailed Sunderland's youngsters for their recent performances, especially with Duncan Watmore and Charis Mavrias taking to the field against Darlington the other day and being utilised as full backs, a position they presumably aren't familiar with: "They deserve to be recognised for the hard work they've put in since the return to training. They took up those positions without complaint or problems, and they applied themselves from the start. That's the sort of attitude I'm talking about – a willingness to do whatever is asked of them, and just to get on with it, looking to be positive all the time. I would like to thank them for playing right-back – a position we don't currently have covered. The boys were fantastic. They willingly did a job for us, and that was good for the team as well. It was great experience for them as well too though, but I'm grateful to them because it was not easy to create a couple of back fours. And of course it is an opportunity for them. and for other young players."

Speaking of Mavrias, the promising Greek winger believes he has a lot more to contribute this coming season: "I cannot complain about last season, though I would have liked to played more. I did manage to play first-team football and I did score a goal (in the FA Cup) but I was still very new here – it was my first season in England, my first season in the Premier League. So in this coming season I would like to think I could do much more."

Jordan Pickford has went out on a season-long loan to League One side Bradford. The young goalkeeper, having recently signed a new contract, was a possibility of being out second choice keeper behind Vito Mannone, but having now signed Costel Pantilimon as backup (I think), Pickford may indeed be best suited to going out and getting some first team experience.

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Poyet pleased with darlo...
five goals, no injuries

I think we can all agree that our pre-season opener against Darlington was a resounding success. We won 5-1, a new boy scoring, we made 11 subs at half time, making sure everyone got a game, and we came away with no injuries. That last one in intself is an achievement given some of our players have less than spotless injury records shall we say. Gus Poyet was happy with the match: "It was ideal. I know it might sound a little daft, but the idea was just to put into practice on the pitch what we have been working on in training. It was all about getting used to formations, it was about positioning during games, about football situations, and I was pleased with the way we went about it. We only really started a few days ago working on tactics. Before that it was fitness, but we are picking up on things all the time. We got better last year as a group and the new ones need to get it and the quicker we work on them the better for us."

All gate receipts from the other day will go straight into the pocket of Darlington, who have been in financial dire straits in recent years, something that no football fan ever wants to see happen. Poyet was pleased that Sunderland could make a difference to their financial situation, but stressed that the help was mutual: "I'm glad that we were able to help Darlington. We have links with them which go back a long time before they changed their name and dropped down the leagues. We wanted to help them, but they helped us too. The pitch was fantastic and we picked up no injuries."

One of the stars of the friendly in question, Steven Fletcher, is thrilled to have hit the ground running after his losing battle against injury last term, and for several years of his career in fact. Fletcher grabbed 2 goals against Darlo, 2 real poacher's efforts. Right place, right time and all that, it takes intelligence. The Scotsman said: "I've not had a pre-season for two or three years, but this one has been going well so far. Touch-wood, it stays the way it is. The boys went away straight away, but I stayed on at the end of the season for a few days with the physios. Then I came back a week earlier. I was ticking over on my own when I went away, too. I only had a quiet holiday and carried on working out over there. Even last summer, I didn't get any time off because I was in rehabing from the season before. It just felt like it was so long. I got to Christmas and it felt like the longest season of my life. So it's been good to get that break and I feel refreshed coming back."

"I haven't scored for a while, it felt a bit weird scoring. I was going to back-heel the first, but I thought I better not! But it's good to get off the mark. I know it's only a friendly, but all goals are good, to be honest. Obviously, goals give players a lot of confidence. Hopefully we can get a few more before the season starts. Minutes on the pitch are most important thing. Training is all well and good, but when you get out there, it's a different story."

New boys Jordi Gomez and Costel Pantilimon have both admitted that the Gus Poyet factor played a major part in their moves to Sunderland. Gomez said: "Getting back into the Barclays Premier League was important for me but the philosophy of the head coach was also key. It is important for me to have a head coach who likes to play football and I think I suit the style he wants to play."

Pantilimon described Poyet's running of the team as a 'good project': "Before I came here I spoke with the head coach on the phone; he is very ambitious and it is a good project. He told me a few things and convinced me very quickly that this is the right place for me to be for my future." Good to know that players are buying into the head coach's philosophy already!

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Borini uncertainty...
great start to pre-season

Following mixed reports in the last 24 hours, it is now apparent that despite several well respected Italian Journalists reporting that Fabio Borini has rejected a move to Sunderland after Liverpool accepted a bid from Sunderland, Borini did NOT board the plane with the rest of his Liverpool teammates to their pre-season camp. While this is nothing concrete, it does suggest that he has somewhere else to be. I believe this place to be The Winter Gardens.

On the pitch, Sunderland got off to a great start to their pre-season campaign yesterday with a 5-1 win over Darlington at Heritage Park. Steven Fletcher got himself a brace whilst Emanuele Giaccherini, Connor Wickham and Jordi Gomez also got goals.

Gus Poyet has confirmed that several deadwood players will be off this summer. Hurrah. Poyet said: "I cannot comment on the names, but I think it is obvious that some players will be leaving – and they know who they are. But for the moment they are our players and we respect them. We will make sure they do what they need to do when they are training with us, and as long as they are professional and behave, they will not have a problem being with us. But if we get the players we need, it is going to be difficult for them to play in the next few games. That's for sure. But it's not about being selfish, it's about being professional and getting the best out of the players for the football club."

Poyet also had time to comment ontwo absentees yesterday; Liam Bridcutt and Adam Johnson. There were initial fears that Johnson may be on his way, but Poyet has explained the two are recovering from injuries: "Liam is getting there and we're taking our time with bringing him back. Johnno twisted his ankle on Thursday but it's nothing serious; he could be back on Tuesday or Wednesday."

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Darlington match report...
by ben fraser

A good number of well-spirited Sunderland fans took the A167 to Bishop Auckland for today's clash against displaced Darlington 1883. The humble yet well-appointed Heritage Park providing the backdrop for the game, as it will do for the 7th August contest against Real Betis. Buoyed by last night's new of the Messiah's second coming I swiftly indulged in a large Margarita from Dominos (only £4.99 on the lunch-time menu) whilst the majority of the visiting support had opted for the local March Hare and a pint instead. The bulk of the team arrived promptly at around 13:50 on the club's swanky new Starliner coach. 'Bulk' being most literally applied with Alfred N' Diaye appearing to have become even more colossal, yet he was still dwarfed by Romanian giant Costel Pantilimon. Some such as O'Shea and Mannone paused to sign autographs and pose for pictures as a healthy congregation had gathered to watch the players' entrance. Connor Wickham, as fastidiously punctual as former Sunderland man Liam Miller, tipped up fifteen minutes later, ostensibly unaware of the few dozen strong congregation as he entered urbanely, mid-mobile-conversation. Hopefully he was arranging another order of champagne as opposed to a speculated switch to Southampton.

We promptly accessed the ground after the conclusion of these entrances, the reliable source of the man next to me declaring that returning Scotsman Steven Fletcher had alighted a good while before the team-bus. The rain began half an hour before kick-off, providing the archetypal conditions for a July friendly against lower-league local opposition and ruining my team sheet.

Sunderland: Mannone, Watmore, Jones, Roberge, O'Shea, Cabral, Ba, Larsson, Honeyman, Clayton, Fletcher.

A silence was impeccably observed in remembrance of the midweek tragedy of MH17 which so sadly affected the region and then the match began. Long-lost Cabral being eclipsed only by Titus Bramble in recent years in regards to rotundness. Immediately the home side had a chance, full back Chris Hunter bursting to the by-line and crossing only for Amar Purewal to put over. This was perhaps their best opportunity of the first period as Sunderland dominated possession and I tried to ascertain the identity of the mysterious number 8 who was absent from the team sheet. After a false suggestion of Magnay, the reliable source of the guy next to me declared that it was George Honeyman, a player he had himself once went up against at U10s level. What the home side lacked in talent they made up for with strong challenging as Honeyman and Jones were both upended early without the referee awarding the deserved free kicks. However, Sunderland did win a free kick on the far right hand touchline as Hatch upended Fletcher; Watmore had broken, feeding Larsson who flicked back inside to Honeyman, threading the ball through to the striker before he was fouled cynically by the number five. Larsson swung in with O'Shea heading just over. Sunderland soon did go ahead within the quarter hour as Watmore flicked to Clayton after a marauding run, who latched onto the through ball to square to a pirouetting Fletcher who finished from a few yards.

The second goal came swiftly; once again Fletcher was fouled, this time in the 'D' outside the 18-yard box. Larsson stepped up to (surprise, surprise) hit into the wall, nonetheless the impressive Watmore recycled possession, driving forwards and passing wide to Honeyman, passes were exchanged with Cabral before it was squared to Fletcher who doubled his tally from 6-yards inside 22 minutes. Speculative chants of 'We're going to win the league' were heard from certain Sunderland supporters. As it turns out, even non-league officials dislike us as Ba was denied a clear penalty and Cabral was soon remonstrating from a distance with the linesman as she flagged for offside where it might have been three. Fletcher was also denied by an excellent double save. Purewal had another half chance but once again missed the mark as the second-half Sunderland XI began to warm up to the delight of the supporters nearby, who especially eulogised veteran defender 'the hardest man in all of town', Wes Brown. Ba had a couple of shots denied before half time.

Second Half

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Mavrias, Ferguson, Diakite, Brown, N'Diaye, Cattermole, Gomez, Moberg Karlsson, Giaccherini, Wickham.

Emmanuele Giaccherini scored almost immediately from the restart; powerhouse N' Diaye collected the ball and surged forward swatting off attention with disdain to feed Wickham, who back-heeled into the Italian's path who found the bottom corner. The goal had occurred even before I was able to recognise Moberg-Karlsson who had been the subject of a new, considerably shorter mop-chop. The referee then turned down the second stone-wall penalty of the game as Mavrias was pushed to the ground, the Greek threatening again, reaching the by-line but to no avail. Wickham then gave the Quakers their first and only warning, firing into the Seaham Sunderland flag just right of the upright after he had peeled off to the left hand side of the box.

Mavrias then got in behind the defence once more, lobbing a cross-shot over which was collected by Wickham, who came inside to smash home. The home fans were then cheering however, a corner was half cleared after a block off the line by Cattermole only for Badman Brown to fumble possession, allowing namesake Gary Brown to score, and prompting adulation from the Darlo faithful. There was then another effort, tame from Purewal before Sunderland had another penalty shout, handball from a Wickham shot, turned down. Then a deflected Cattermole drive sat up for Gomez to rifle home with aplomb from 20 yards on the half volley. As one remarked, the first Jordi to score for Sunderland since Judas Colback. All in all a successful if sodden outing. Less than a month to go now and it's all starting to get rather exciting.

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borini fee agreed...
buzzing

Yesterday we agreed a fee with Liverpool for Fabio Borini, the fee in question believed to be in the region of £12-£14m. Sunderland via Lee Congerton have made no secret of their desire to make Fabio's loan move permanent, given their vocal admiration for both his talent and his work ethic. It will be up to Borini now to agree personal terms in a deal which could potentially be our record transfer. For a player of his age and potential, £14m could prove to be a very good deal for the Italian. Gus Poyet had this to say: “What I can say is that we have agreed [a deal] with Liverpool, we are waiting for correspondence and then we move on from there. It’s clear the impact Fabio had last season. And we are going to spend that amount of money on a player that we know how much he can give us. He would be perfect for us. It’s an ongoing thing. We have done the steps that we needed to do properly, and now we are waiting. We want to do things the right way.”

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said: “He spent a really successful period with Sunderland last year, and it’s obviously a fantastic club. They’ve offered to buy Fabio and that’s where it’s at. There is an agreement between the two clubs, but nothing is agreed with the player as of yet. So at the moment he’s still very much a Liverpool player, but when that changes I’m sure you’ll be among the first to know.”

Costel Pantilimon has spoken of the Sunderland fans and how much they impressed him before he came to the club: "The first match I remember [the Sunderland fans] was in Hong Kong, I didn't expect to see so many fans when we played a final there. Then we played the final at Wembley and it was nice to see so many fans, the crowd was beautiful and I hope to feel the same now." The Romanian giant also spoke of his battle for the number one spot with Vito Mannone: "We are different keepers but we both have good skills, I have my qualities and Vito has his own but we will both work hard to improve. It is good for club's to have two good goalkeepers and it is normal for everyone to work hard for a place in the team, so we will both fight for the position."

"From the moment I arrived I have enjoyed everything, I like what is happening in the team and I like the people. I cannot wait to arrive at the Stadium to play my first game. I hope to do better than last season because it was a difficult year, I hope to win more games and have a good position when the Barclays Premier League ends. I know all about what has happened in the past, I was talking with a few people and the club have had a lot of good goalkeepers. I want to be a part of the club's history and I hope to have a good season."

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New boys speak...
happy times

Giant goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon is completely focused on being a Sunderland player and has no time for reminiscing on his spell at Man City. Pantilimon said: "I don't want to talk about it. It was a good period, a good three years and we won lots of trophies – two Premier Leagues, a Community Shield and the Capital One Cup. But I want to forget that because I'm starting a new season, with a new team. I want to do good things here."

The Romanian is focused on becoming Sunderland's number one keeper: "I knew I needed to play and I want to play, to get back to being number one in my national team. I'm young and I need to play. It was a good opportunity to come here after I talked to the manager. I liked his ideas and his ambitions. I want to do good things here. I need to prove myself all the time. It's never enough. You always think you can do more and I'm sure I'm going to do good things in this team. I hope this will be a different season. I know last year wasn't so good in the Premier League because it went down to the end. But I hope we can do better than last year. I want to help this team to be in a good position."

Steven Fletcher is into the swing of training after a plethora of injury problems ruled him out of a large period of last season. The Scottish striker is looking forward to kicking things off against Darlington at Bishop Auckland: "It will be a tough match at Bishop Auckland because it is our first game back. We will have to ease ourselves into it and make sure we don't fly in, but it should be a good test. It would be nice to stay injury-free for the full season, so touch wood that I can because last year was very frustrating. It's been a hard week but I'm glad to be back and it's good to be training again, especially because I was out for so long last season. I've not seen too much of the new lads on the ball but they have all settled well. Their fitness has been very good and they have looked after themselves over the summer, so I'm looking forward to playing with them this season."

Jordi Gomez admits he is settled at Sunderland and feels welcomed to the club: "Everyone has been really good with me and the other new guys, I am enjoying it and I am happy to be here. I didn't see a lot of Sunderland last year but when I was at Wigan Athletic we had similar drama at the end of the season - it was a great effort from the team to stay in the league.

"The first couple of weeks have been good, it's been hard but it is important to work now in order to feel the benefits during the season. The team have been back for two weeks and now we are starting to play games, as a player this is what you want to be doing so we will enjoy it. It was difficult to go down to the Championship but I just concentrated on having a good season with Wigan, now I am back in the Barclays Premier League and I'm going to enjoy it. The philosophy of the head coach was important; he has good ideas and the style he wants to play will suit me."

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Interested in besler?...
N'Diaye wants to stay

According to American World Cup star Matt Besler, Sunderland are interested in his services. The defender said: “I know that Fulham have offered to Kansas City and I know that Sunderland put in an offer or are putting in an offer. We’re trying to get something done as soon as possible. It’s a situation which needs to get resolved. I want to be staying in Kansas City if I’m going to stay. But if they’re going to sell me then I want to know as soon as possible. It’s not just my decision, it’s the club’s if they want to sell me or not. But I would definitely have an input in a team.”

Big Alfred N'Diaye wants to stay at Sunderland according to his agent (and brother) Bakary N'Diaye. Bakary has told the media: “I have read all the speculation, but I have not actually heard anything and as far as I am concerned, he is staying at Sunderland. I will meet with the club next week, with Margaret Byrne and Lee Congerton, to have a discussion. At the moment, he is with the team and is working hard in pre-season. Real Betis really loved him and he had a great relationship with the coach. He was happy over there with the city and the club, but now he is back with Sunderland. Betis want him and I know they keep talking with Sunderland about him. But he does not want to play in the Spanish Second Division. He would prefer to play in the Premier League with Sunderland. That is his main goal and he is focusing on that every day.” It is believed that Sunderland will hold talks with N'Diaye next week over his future.

Kevin Ball has been moved from his role of senior professional development coach at the Academy to a more minor ambassador role. It isn't exactly clear what his new role will be, but with Bally going for serious knee surgery in the coming weeks, the club thought best to change his role. Sporting Director Lee Congerton said of the switch: "Kevin is still a valuable member of this football club – he’s a legend here – but, unfortunately, Kevin had to go and have a new knee,” he explained. “He’s been in a lot of pain for a long time. That was due to take place some time this year and we decided that rather than get going with the Under-21s, let’s have the operation down now and he’s due to have it on the 24th of July.”

"I speak to Kevin quite often. He’ll still be part of the technical department and he’ll come in and work with myself and do things with me, learn about other parts of the business, help with our loan players and looking at the young players who are going out and making sure they are OK. He will also be involved in our commercial department, in our global work in Nigeria and other countries, and he’s a big part of our football club. I think the whole club need stability and Robbie Stockdale is from the North East, he’s worked with Kevin, he will continue to work with the U21s. He’s overseeing them at present. He joined us about a year ago. Ged McNamee brought him in, he’d been working at Grimsby and had a good reputation and we want to develop our own coaches as well as our players. It won’t happen overnight, but we’re working on that for the future.”

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Don't Panic. yet...
ALS BLOG BY GARETH BARKER (WISE MEN SAY PODCAST)

To cite the great Andy Townsend, we're definitely in and around the business area of the transfer window. In case you missed it, up to now we've made three signings. All of which were free transfers. More disconcerting to some is the players that have left, because they've been sold, released or their loan spell has ended, have yet to be appropriately replaced.

Now I can understand some of the concern. The last thing anyone wants is another relegation battle. But, I still don't think we should be too concerned as of yet.

There are certain things in life that occur and as a result exacerbate the smallest of issues. In football, the things that your rivals do are certainly something that can create a bit of hysteria. Newcastle (proper obsessed, me) are buying players at the moment and we aren't. It's difficult to read a Twitter or Facebook time line without having this rammed in your face. As another '5 Reasons Why Siem De Jong's Toenails Will Shock The Premier League' type article floated down the page, it got me thinking.

There have been some great rivalries committed to paper and screen over the years. Without each other, those in competition would be almost obsolete. They spur each other on to better one another but with a reasonably well hidden mutual respect.

An appropriate simile for this situation is reflected in one of the great rivalries of the 21st century – Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders. In 'Call of the Simpsons', Ned buys a really bling RV. Homer, jealous, rushes out to get one for himself. He can only afford a clapped out banger, and the family end up stranded in the wilderness. Homer ends up covered in mud and moss, eating bee laden honey and being mistaken for big foot.

Now that last bit might sound like a pre-season session under Paolo Di Canio. But the point stands - just because your neighbour has some fancy new thing, it doesn't mean you have to run out and get one too.

The most active team in the transfer window up to now is Aston Villa with five signings. They include Philippe Senderos, Joe Cole and two free agents from Southampton. Sunderland's business up to now has been relatively normal in comparison to everyone else in the league. What Newcastle do in the market at the moment, or anyone else for that matter, is generally irrelevant.

The Sunderland and Newcastle transfer narratives run conveniently alongside each other at the moment. It makes it easy to fill pages in print, online and on Twitter - '#NUFC doing great business. Eerily quiet over at #SAFC though. May be a bit of a worry'. Bang. Retweets. Hits. Panic. Meltdown. Moist mattresses.

It is hard to remain level headed at times when you're pumped full of information, or misinformation, by media sources at every angle. The anxiety builds. The transfer window is almost a reality TV show in itself. Not as good as The Simpsons mind. I sometimes wonder whether it's the thrill of the chase and capture that some get addicted to, rather than the actual deal itself. Like someone who is addicted to mail order shopping channels, the thrill of the overpriced, shiny new item arriving in your letterbox. Just sign someone. Anyone.

Relax. That's the general gist. Don't worry about the yellow ticker on Sky Sports News, or what other teams are doing. There's plenty of time, and I'm sure Congerton and Poyet are working hard on bringing the right targets to the club. See where we are in a fortnight or three weeks - then panic/get excited. The last thing we want is to be naked in a forest eating bees, right?

Screw Flanders.

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still in for ki...
n'diaye for sale

Following the news that Ki Sung-Yeung may be on his way to Aston Villa, there are reports now that Sunderland may not be completely out of the running for the South-Korean International. Ki was a top performer in the former two thirds of last season, but stagnated towards the end after niggling injury problems, and of course couldn't get in the team with the midfield trifecta of Cattermole, Larsson and REDACTED playing so well.

Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins said of Ki: We want him to come back after his break and sit down with Garry [Monk, the Swansea manager] for a chat. Garry has spoken to him already, but it's important that they have another chat and we will decide on where we go after that. Ideally, we would like to tie Ki up on a long-term contract. There's no hiding from that."

Alfred N'Diaye could be set to leave the club for less than half of what he joined for. N'Diaye has been back training at the AOL for over a week now but it is still believed that Gus Poyet does not see him as part of his plans. N'Diaye arrived at the club under O'Neill for £3.7m but could join Real Betis for a base fee of £1.5m. To be honest, with our midfield being as thin as it is, I don't think we're in any sort of position to be letting anyone else go, especially a 24 year old who was decent in the few games he was allowed to play in.

It is also being reported that we are interested in Costa Rica defender and World Cup star Giancarlo Gonzalez. Gonzalez was named in the BBC Team of the Tournament at the World Cup, and depite only joining MLS side Columbus Crew in February, the 26 year old could be the subject of a £5m move to Sunderland. Very little legs in this one as of yet, but a good link to have, especially when we need a centre back, or three.

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Can Sunderland compete financially?...
als blog by James Hailstone

With only three players signed so far in this transfer window, many Sunderland fans have understandably become concerned at the lack of transfer activity shown by the Black Cats. Full back Billy Jones, central midfielder Jordi Gomez and goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon were all snapped up quickly by Gus Poyet on free transfers, but there seems to have been no activity since that experienced Premier League trio signed at the end of June.

While the shortage of players coming into this threadbare squad could be down to targets not working out, finances could be a major factor as wages and transfer fees, as well as agent fees, will come at huge cost to Sunderland, and may not be something that they are prepared or are able to pay for. Last summer, for example, it was believed that the club spent huge amounts giving the likes of Modibo Diakite, Valentin Roberge and Cabral, who has as many Premier League appearances as Lee Cattermole as Sunderland goals, lucrative contracts that convinced them to sign. While they all may have been on free transfers, Roberto De Fanti's ludicrous summer spending spree, bring in 14 new players, could prove costly for Sunderland.

However, nine players have just been released so this would surely free up some wages? In addition, striker Ignacio Scocco is believed to be returning to Argentina for £2.3m, Alfred N'Diaye to Spain and Real Betis for £1.2m and finally Danny Graham, who has scored less Sunderland goals than Lee Cattermole, is rumoured to be joining Middlesbrough for £1m, representing a huge loss from the £5m Martin O'Neill invested in him a few seasons ago. The latter two of that trio are on £20,000 a week and, amazingly, £40,000 a week respectively and, assuming Scocco is on around £25,000 a week, this could free up close to £90,000 of wages roughly, certainly enough to fund the arrivals of the three new signings so far.

The Wearsiders have slashed their wages and are set to do so more with the departures of the likes of Roberge, Cabral, Diakite, Karlsson and those mentioned above likely to be confirmed soon. This would give them sufficient room to manoeuvre in both wages and transfer fees, suggesting that the answer is that, for a club at Sunderland's level, they can compete for players.

A lack of sufficient arrivals so far could then be down to the World cup, which has just concluded on Sunday night. Summer transfer windows after the football festivities have been slow for transfer business as players return from their countries and have their holidays before negotiating new deals. However, these deals need to be completed in double quick time in Sunderland's case as at the minute, we have only one senior full back in the form of Billy Jones, two ageing centre backs, a weak central midfield and a striking department that can neither score goals or remain fully fit. Saying that, however, I do believe that given a run of games in the team, both Jozy Altidore and Steven Fletcher could provide a regular goal source this season, if they can keep fit.

In summary, there could be many factors that have stopped signing their key targets so far in the summer, with the Alonso and Borini deals both being held up by disagreements over how much the player is worth. The Ashley Williams situation was one Sunderland believed that they could get the player, only for the Swansea Captain to sign a new deal. There is no doubt that Sunderland are working on new players, but will have their work cut out fielding a full strength team against West Brom on the opening day.

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10 things...
als blog by robert ledger

10 Things That We Can Expect To Happen Before The Season Kicks Off

1. – People will bemoan the lack of signings Sunderland have made

It does seem like every season for the past five or so years we've been rebuilding half the squad. The free transfers we've brought in to cover the likes of Bardsley, Colback, Gardner & Westwood haven't exactly set the world on fire but they're solid proven premiership squad players, who all can play a bit of football and adapt to Poyet's philosophy. The majority of transfers will happen in the last couple of weeks of the window as the bidding wars increase; I don't think it's time to hit the panic button just yet.

2. – We'll get beat in a pre-season friendly against lower league opposition

Things like this happen, if anyone takes pre-season results into account they deserve a slap. Last season we beat Spurs in the Barclays Asia Trophy, two things stand out for me in that game. David Moberg-Karlsson's tidy finish into the bottom corner, and Cabral looking like he could dominate a game from midfield… That worked out well didn't it?

3. – The deadwood will still remain (at least some of it)

I think getting shot of Bardsley & Gardner was needed, both were on far too much money (if reports are to be believed) than their talents warranted, less said about Colback the better. This leaves us with the following: Roberge, Diakite, Cabral, Scocco, Graham – you can arguably add N'Diaye & Altidore to this list too I guess. If all these players have left by the end of the transfer window it'll be the first time a manager has achieved a squad of players he actually wanted since "Wah Finished Tenth". Roberge just isn't very good, can't see anyone wanting him, Diakite hopefully we could get rid of in the Alonso deal, Scocco & Graham have both been linked with moves away in the last week, actually we're doing pretty well in terms of trimming the squad.

4. – Sky will move the fixtures about just to piss on our chips

Forget about booking train tickets for Southampton away in advance, it'll just get changed halfway through the season. Pretty sure this happened with Portsmouth a few seasons back as well, not like we spend enough money to travel to away games? Oh, and take the most fans, and have teams raise their away prices knowing we'll bring a good following… Would be nice to get something back now and then.

5. – Someone with nothing better do will camp out to get the new home kit first

I've never understood this, what is the point in going as far as camping out to get the home kit first? Surely with the money you spend on it you could get on a bus or a train and go do something with the day? I'm not against people buying the strip at all, own a few myself. But I just can't get my head around why anyone would do it… You get your picture in the paper, readers won't be thinking "Wow, proper massive lads fans them," they'll be thinking. "Hawy lad, you're 32 now, time to move out of your mothers, get a job and do something with yourself".

6. – Wes Brown will get injured in pre-season

I hope not, but this run of invulnerability can't last forever. Brown played in 22 league games last year, the most he's managed in 6 seasons. Brown and O'Shea have their critics, but for me they were invaluable for us stopping up and although reaching the end of their careers still have a big part to play this season for SAFC. Besides, we don't really have anyone else competent to play there.

7. – Darren Bent's career will continue to nosedive.

Relegated with Fulham (albeit on loan) at the end of last season, cast your mind back to this time just before the 2010/2011 season had kicked off, Bent had just finished third in the goal scoring charts, behind Drogba and Rooney, scored his first International goal in September and even managed to make the England manager visit the North East of England… However, Moneybags Bent has scored less goals in his previous 4 seasons combined than he did in his debut season for The Lads, grass ain't always greener Darren.

8. – Jozy Altidore will release a press statement saying he's ready to take the Premier League by storm.

Now I like Jozy, perhaps in a minority, but he's a likeable lad. Shoots people down on Twitter and he's a trier (Love a geet good trier here at Sunderland). I was really hoping for him to have a good World Cup, maybe bang a few goals in to bring his confidence back, but sadly his time in Brazil was cut short by injury. He's shown in glimpses that he has the strength to trouble defenders, and who could forget those Ronaldo esq step overs against Fulham? With Wickham, Jozy and a fully fit Fletcher there's plenty of competition for the lone striker role assuming Poyet keeps his formation the same. There's definitely more to come from the big American, I hope he can put last season behind him and kick on.

9. – Fabio Borini, will he or won't he

I love the little fella I really do, works hard, scores against the mags and has nerves of steel when it comes to taking penalties. We'd all love him here, but with Suarez away to Barca Liverpool's attacking options need strengthening even with the addition of Lambert. The best memories from last season all involve Borini and he's somewhat of a legend already with his exploits. I don't think he'll leave Liverpool as he's done enough to warrant a chance at Anfield. There's perhaps a possibility in January if he's not getting any game time, but I feel that's it. I hope I'm wrong, stranger things have happened, but it must be considered a long shot at this present moment in time.

10. – In Poyet I trust

Regardless of what happens between now and the start of the season the man took us from bottom with an impossible run in. Brought the best out of the whole squad when it mattered the most and led us to one hell of a memorable season, even playing some attractive football at times! I'm going to relax, let Gus do his thing and see what happens. Would love to see Alonso, Borini & Vergini back, we desperately need to sign some defenders, a left winger, a centre midfielder… aye so there's a bit to do. I have no doubts it'll come together in time.

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Wickham rejects deal...
but don't panic

Connor Wickham has reportedly rejected a new contract at Sunderland. Wickham is said to have been offered a new three year deal at Sunderland but has turned it down with a year left remaining on his current deal and interest from other clubs. The striker rejects a contract at a sensitive time for Sunderland, with the club recently losing a player to another club after stalling on a contract offer and then eventually signing a pre-contract on the sly. However, I wouldn't worry too much about Wickham, he may just be holding out for more money or more likely to see where Sunderland are and where he stands in 6 months, he's probably sick of the club fighting relegation and him not really playing a part in the first team. If we make him our main man from now until Christmas, and we're sitting aroun mid-table, he'd do well to get a new deal, with other clubs of our stature already signing forwards this window.

Nacho Scocco is still leaving. Slowly but surely. Zzzzz.

Loan star Ki Sung-Yeung has been strongly linked with a move to Aston Villa. The midfielder has but a year left on his contract and it is believed that Villa are on the verge of striking a deal for the South Korean. Why Villa? Who knows. The player's agent has acted coy on the transfer but there are rumours than Ki has already bought a house in Birmingham. You wouldn't do that unless you had to. Only Joking. Sort of.

Aston Villa also completed the signing of Kieran Richardson from Fulham last week, with the utility man excited to link up with Assistant Manager Roy Keane. Ricco said: "That season when I signed for Sunderland, I think I only played 10 games because I had a hairline fracture in the L5 vertebrae in my spine. Throughout that season I was very upset, I put on a lot of weight and I got bigger but, just before the end of that season, Roy took me into his office and we had a massive conversation. He inspired me to go away in the summer and come back in better shape than I had ever been in. I went and played very well in the next season. He gave me some good words of encouragement to go and do that over the summer and I appreciate that." I like Richardson, we could have done wth him last season, but obviously he had all those injury problems at Fulham. I don't doubt our decision to move him on but he's a very useful player.

Got the fixtures set out all nicely on your phone or hanging on your wall yet? CHANGE THEM. Three matches have already been rescheduled for Sky coverage. The first home game of the season against Manchester United will be shown live on Sky Sports therefore the game has now been moved to Sunday, 24th August with a 4pm kick off time. Our match at Crystal Palace will now take place on Monday, November 3rd, kick-off is now 8pm. The Chelsea game at the Stadium of Light now takes place on Saturday, November 29th as advertised but the kick off is now 5.30pm.

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World Cup 2014: Argentina v Germany, 13th July 2014
lines from london

Before
I spent a month in Buenos Aires three years ago and went to a couple of matches there (Independiente v Lanus and Racing Club v Godoy). After passing through a cordon of cops bearing automatic weapons I entered the sections thronged with the barra brava or hardcore fans. I'd been warned to be careful but they were friendly enough and extremely fanatical about their sides. Huge ribbons in the team's colours were deployed over our heads, flares were lit on all sides and at the Independiente match a drummer band of fans paraded though our end. Argentinians don't drink much on the whole and there were no bars thronged with fans chucking the beer down near the ground but they tend to smoke a lot and quite a few were smoking grass on the terraces. One of the Independiente fans noticed I was English and came across for a chat, even joking about 'the hand of God' at one stage. When he departed at full time, he did the traditional local thing and kissed me on both cheeks. The barra brava kept up a non-stop wall of noise throughout these games and I'd never heard anything like it. Even though both home sides, Independiente and Racing Club, lost the games I attended the home fans didn't seem to be put out at all by this, which is a far cry from the U.K. So, having watched two matches in this tournament with German fans, I decided it was time to join some Argentinians. I don't fancy their chances to be honest and I wonder if they'll be quite as serene as their domestic club fans if things don't go their way tonight.

After their demolition of Brazil on Tuesday the Germans must be feeling sky-high and you've got to fancy them tonight but if Di Maria returns for Argentina, as seems likely, and Messi pulls off more of his magic, anything could happen. My Argentinian pals are all talking about the great game Mascherano had against the Dutch on Wednesday and it's clear that with him in their defence, Argentina won't be as accommodating to attackers as their Brazilian counterparts on Tuesday. Of course in the last World Cup Germany won 4-0 mainly by putting two men on Messi and stopping him playing. I've got a feeling that it's going to be a roller-coaster game and I reckon Germany will prevail though I'd be happy if Argentina won it.

The Match
I'd been tipped off about a small Argentinian restaurant-bar called Garufin on Theobalds Road WC1 so I bowled up there at round 7.15 to make sure I got a decent spot. There were around twenty-five people inside and outside, and most of the seats, even at the bar, had 'reserved' signs on them so I bought a small bottle of Quilmes Argentinian beer for a hefty £4.20 and squeezed myself into a very good spot next to a table and the bar where nobody would walk past. Thanks to some timely bursting of balloons and tying back of overhanging lights I soon had an almost full view of the one telly on the wall. By the time the game was about to kick off there were around seventy-five people present and the vast majority were Argentinians suitably bedecked in shirts, flags, chevrons and in a few cases blue lipstick. Around half of those there were young women. There was fair bit of shushing as their national anthem played and then they all launched into a singalong with much clapping and thumping on the tables. I reverted to a pint of London Lager for £4.60, which seemed a much better proposition and settled down to enjoy the game.

You all know what happened so I'll keep the footballing side of it brief but when I heard there was no Di Maria in the Argentina side, I knew it was a real blow for them.
I really enjoyed the first-half and after early dominance by Germany, Argentina came back strongly and had the better of the chances but couldn't make them count. Higuain left a lot to be desired upfront. Argentina were using plenty of muscle but the Germans started to dish it out too. Around the half-hour mark there was plenty of drama with Schweinsteiger getting yellow-carded and then Higuain getting the ball in the net only for the linesman's flag to pour very cold water on the leaping masses in the bar before Kramer was helped off the field to be replaced by Schurrle. Howedes had a great header that hit the post in the dying moments of the half but it was still 0-0 at the break.

I got chatting to a guy at the bar called Riccardo who it turned out was an Independiente fan and remembered the game I'd been to there in 2011. We talked about the history of his club and the current economic problems in Argentina. He told me that he too used to be a football correspondent. As the second-half kicked off Aguero was on for Lavezzi. This half wasn't as interesting as the first with both sides being cagier and extra-time started to loom quite early for me. There was a shot on the telly of the sun going down over the statue of Christ in Rio and this was met with much derision by the folks in the bar. They were chanting along a good deal and several of these chants were begun by the bar manager who clearly was a bit of an M.C. None of the chants resembled any of our popular tunes, unlike the German chants I'd heard on Tuesday, but as far as I could understand one of them was along the lines of “Argentina, I love you! Whoo-hoo-hoo!” Not much of a surprise there then. Another brought back memories of a Seventies Rod Stewart hit i.e. “Ole-ole-ole! Ole-ole-ola!” Perhaps the member of the pub audience who was most bedecked in Argentinian colours turned out to be a London guy whom I suspect had little or no family connection to the country but he was being very vocal and had clearly spent considerable time on his costume, which looked like the Pope's robes.

Anyway, extra-time duly came and Schurrle almost scored straightaway with a great snap-shot that Romero did well to parry. He played a major part in the winning goal with around eight minutes to go when he raced half the length of the field down the left before crossing to Goetze, who chested it down and lashed it low into the right of the net. It was a great goal and worthy of being a match-winner as it proved to be. The bar was struck dumb and then there were a few cries of “Vamos!” The TV focused on the crying face of a child and when his father put a consoling arm around him, the boy pushed him away. This brought much laughter from the folks in the bar. In the very last moments many people were thumping on tables as Messi shaped up to take a free-kick but he skied it and that was that. Riccardo said to me, “We don't cry, like Brazil. We know what we are.” As soon as the game ended the TV was off before the cup was presented and music started playing.

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ALS Blog
By Melanie Dudley

So my love affair with Brasil 2014 World Cup drew to a close last night, I have loved every minute of the drama, beautiful people, referee decisions, haircuts, terrible ITV coverage and of course vanishing spray! Last night, for one final only, lederhosen was adorned; umpa umpa music played and I sank a few cheeky beers. Thoroughly enjoyable World Cup, apart from the obvious usual England crap!

Anyway, back to business and in 33 days; kick off for what I hope will be “Sunderland’s season”. So, so far, I think Congleton and the governor have made some good acquisitions, some of the old crowd has gone, I mostly feel the right decisions were made; however, our outlook has to be to look ahead, not back.

We still have the Borini/Alonso debates rumbling on, I personally would love to see them both stay and play at SOL, however, I am now mind numbly bored with the rehashed articles on this.

My own personal desire would be to have one good season of mid table mediocrity, obviously wins against Newcastle and not the usual stress and drama of running towards the end of the season with the angst of potential relegation!

I predict we’ll finish in 10th place, Burnley, Hull (hoping) and Swansea to be propping up the table, top three Liverpool, Man City and Man United.

I’m ready to roll, I believe, do you!?!

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On the Buses…
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