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Learn to Spell Adnan Januzaj...
Nice

Well it's getting quite exciting now! With Leroy Fer and Yann M’Vila apparently having medicals, we are now after Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj. The Belgian had a great debut season under David Moyes (he was probably the only one who did), but Louis van Gaal only played Januzaj in a handful of games last season and the feeling at Old Trafford is that a season long loan to another Premier League club would suit all concerned.

Meanwhile, with all these players coming in, it looks more and more likely that Duncan Watmore and Tom Beadling will go out on loan. Shame.

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catts craic...
saying all the right things

Lee Cattermole reckons that he loves SAFC, the fans are mint and it's about time that we stopped fighting against the drop! It's almost like an Sunderland AFC manifesto and with Yann M’Vila and Leroy Fer apparently on their way, to bolster the midfield, it's all looking rosy in the garden of Sunderland. Cattermole said: “This feels like my club. If you spend enough time somewhere, you fall in love with it. This place has definitely got me and for the years I’m going to be here now, it’ll be a long period and it’ll play a big part in my life. (The new contract) was a no-brainer because I feel like I’ve got an opportunity to help take the club somewhere special, and I want to be a part of that. It’s a brilliant club with a massive fanbase, but we’re underachieving at the moment. We need to look to push on and get back to the kind of heights that the club enjoyed in the Peter Reid era. They finished seventh or eighth back then, and if you can finish in or around there, then that’s progress, and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be competing with where Swansea, Stoke and Southampton are. You look at clubs like that, and that has to be the target for us. Throw in a decent cup run, and that’s where the club has to look to be. It’s getting great backing from the owner, and the fans are following us all around the country like they always do. I don’t want to just plod out my career, spreading my time around five or six different clubs. I could have done that, but here I feel like I have a chance to be remembered and that was a massive thing. I want to make sure when I leave that people still remember me, and that means helping the club achieve something really special.”

Cattermole also reckons that with Dick Advocaat at the helm and the new players coming in we are stronger than we have been for some time. “In terms of the team, I think this is the best group of players now that I’ve ever been a part of here,” he added. It was only two years ago that I lost my squad number, but I can see that a lot has changed since then. You can’t make massive improvements overnight, but I believe in the structure of the club at the minute and where the people in charge want to go. We sat down before I signed and everything they were telling me was great. Over the next couple of seasons, we have to really try to make a name for ourselves. That’s the important thing, we don’t want to just keep plodding along and staying in the league. We want to try to build something, and I just want to make sure that the players that come here know that we want to try to look to push on.”

Meanwhile, Dick Advocaat has explained his decision to let Jordan Pickford go to Preston North End on a season-long loan. Head coach Advocaat said: “We made the decision about Jordan after a lot of thought because he is a very talented goalkeeper for us. He’s a Sunderland player, but if Pantilimon continues playing like he has and Jordan wasn’t really getting any football, there was always the chance we could lose him. He’s a great goalkeeper, but he needs to play. That’s the reason that we took that decision.”

In other news, Emanuele Giaccherini is hoping that after two years of injuries and glimpses of what he's capable of, he will finally come good in the forthcoming season. So do we mate! “I’m excited for the new season and I hope that it is a good year for me and the team,” said Giaccherini. “We need to start well and we need to take points from the first four games, but right now we’re just focussing on winning against Leicester City. This season is very important for me because I need to play games, so I hope to do well after featuring throughout pre-season and I’m ready to play.” He continued: “I want to show my quality for the supporters and also for myself; the first season was okay with a few goals and assists but the second was difficult due to injury, so hopefully this year I can reward the investment in me by the fans and the club. The European Championships are also next summer but that comes second to Sunderland; I want to play well in the Barclays Premier League and if it leads to the Euros then no problem.”

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What A Difference A Win Makes
By Peter Whalen

Hannover triumph, a change of opinion and maybe just maybe a bright season ahead.

The lads rounded off pre-season in style with a win over Bundesliga side Hannover 96. A Jeremain Lens strike followed up by a Costel Pantilimon penalty save ensured Sunderland head into the new season with a bit of confidence.

Hannover 96 0-1 Sunderland

Dick Advocaat’s team selection give the red and white army an indication to who to expect in the starting 11 with Leicester City first on the agenda.
 
The game itself wasn’t one for a catalogue of chances although the lads did produce an inspiring performance. Sunderland seemed to have a lot more width to their play compared to recent outings and that factor certainly impressed.

Lens and Patrick Van Aanholt worked well together during the course of the game showing glimpses of what us fans can expect as the season draws nearer. Jermain Defoe played in his preferred position as he led the line in a 4-3-3 formation.

The former Toronto man delivered food for thought as he produced an accomplished performance. Defoe brought his teammates into the game holding the ball up well and looked threatening throughout. I would like to see him as our main striker this season.

Both sides tried their luck with Defoe and Sebastian Larsson going particularly close for the visitors. SAFC knocked the ball around well with the front three looking to cause problems.

Lens’ long-range effort proved to be the decisive goal, as the home side couldn’t manage an equaliser.

ALS Man of the Match

A number of players impressed me including Younes Kaboul although Sebastian Coates stood out that little bit more. The defender never looked out of place, winning every header that came near him and his reading of the game was outstanding.

A change of opinion

14 days ago I wasn’t confident going into the new campaign. There didn’t even appear to be a rumor in the air as fans started to become concerned. With Connor Wickham joining Crystal Palace, the question was who was going to be his replacement? Leroy Fer and Yann M’Vila may not be strikers but are players that would improve the squad as a whole.

 With the latter potentially signing this week just in time for the Leicester clash, it allows the fans to maybe possess a different outlook as events begin in just five days time. I don’t know enough about M’Vila to go into detail about his ability and his weaknesses although he is evidently very well though off.

Fer is a player that I admire and would add that extra bit of spark to the Sunderland midfield. This signing could be crucial come end of the season.

Wickham never done enough for me and was always pushed of the ball far to easily. He will probably end up in double figures for Palace come end of the season, Sunderland fans will be able to relate to this!

Another member of the squad who I fear will struggle this season is Jack Rodwell. You may recall me saying a few weeks ago I expect big things from him. Although with new signings on their way I do feel his place will be on the substitutes bench and not on the field of play. Sorry Jack.

After Pantilimon’s heroics on Saturday it was brilliant to see the togetherness from all the players. The way they celebrated as he denied the penalty taker, jumping on him, congratulating him. It was great to see. Everything seems to be in place going into the new season!

Predicted finish – 12th.

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SEE YA CONNOR...
AJ TRAIL DELAYED TIL FEB 2016

Connor Wickham has been chatting about his £9m move to Palace, which everyone seems happy with. Let's face it after four years at Sunderland, which weren't exactly a success, we are lucky to get our money back on him! He said: "I spoke to the gaffer last week and he said all the right things about the club and I've got friends here who also told me some very good things. I looked at the team before I arrived here and the signings that have been brought in and the potential to score goals and the chances that could be created was a massive influence. Hopefully I can add to that talent and make the squad stronger. I think I needed the fresh start, I had four years up north and it's been a bit stop-start. Now I've come back home and I can settle down and see my family a bit more and hopefully let my football do the talking."

Meanwhile, Adam Johnson's trial has been pushed back to February 2016 and will be moved to Bradford. I guess that means we will have him for most of the season whatever the outcome.

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Yann M’Vila, Leroy Fer and Alexandre Pato...
heading to wearside

With Connor Wickham heading to Palace, it seems that Yann M’Vila and Leroy Fer could both arrive on loan to bolster the midfield before the season starts.

25 year old M’Vila moved to Rubin Kazan for €12m in 2013, but never settled in Russia and spent last season on loan at Inter Milan, where he only featured 8 times, so would welcome a move to the Premier League. He a defensive midfielder, who was a regular in the French national team and amassed 22 caps by the age of 23, but has not played for his country since his move to Russia.

Dutchman Fer is more creative than M’Vila, and is keen to jump ship at QPR after their relegation to the Championship. 25-year-old Fer has played 11 times for Holland and at club level has played at Feyenoord, FC Twente, Norwich City and QPR.

In more exciting news, we are also in for 22 times capped Brazilian international, Alexandre Pato. Pato has scored 87 goals in 201 career appearances with the likes of Inter, AC Milan, Corinthians and São Paulo, so Sunderland seems like a natural progression. Here's what it says on his Wiki page today. "Alexandre Pato is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays for Sunderland AFC and the Brazil national team as a forward. Despite his Brazilian heritage, Alexandre grew up in Hendon, an area in Sunderland and practiced his home country's Samba style football by kicking pebbles into the North Sea on Roker Beach."

Dick Advocaat seems very happy with the way the squad strengthening is progressing: “I think the chairman is doing great. He has been really great in terms of the support he has given because it is not just about bringing players in, he has also had to work with some of the things that have been here for the last couple of years. So it’s not just about what we do now, it’s also about working through some of the things that were already here. He is very willing to do everything he can for the team, and has been very positive whenever we have talked."

Advocaat also talked openly about why he's getting rid of Connor Wickham: “We have too many strikers, and if I could have held on to them all, I wouldn’t really have wanted to sell Connor Wickham at just 22 years of age,” he said. “But we simply had too many players in that position, and that’s why the decision was made.”

Big Dick was also happy to finish the pre season schedule with a win in Hanover and felt that Younes Kaboul had a good run out. “He (Kaboul) feels good,” said Advocaat. “I asked him how he was feeling at half-time, and he said that his legs were really good. He played 60 minutes or so and that is really good. He’s a good player. He’s quick and strong in the air, and that’s just what we need. Any time you come to Germany and get a win, it’s a good thing,” said Advocaat. “We could see some things during the game that we still have to improve, but we have a week to do that. That’s what we have to work on, making the team better. We didn’t give a lot of chances away, which was a positive, but we still have to work on pressuring the ball earlier.”

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Five Sleeps...
ALS Blog By Eve Sayers

At the start of every season I promise myself I won’t get excited and get my hopes up. At 20 I should know better, the past few seasons have taught me that optimism and Sunderland aren’t really a match made in heaven.

Bruce’s top ten finish, O’Neill’s honeymoon, Di Canio’s summer frenzy and Poyet’s Great Escape and road to Wembley have all given us false hope in the past five years. You know you shouldn’t get excited but you just can’t help it, then you slam yourself when it ends in disaster.

But why do I get the feeling that this time might be different? Is it my naïve optimism? Maybe. Admittedly I didn’t know too much about Advocaat but the way he has turned things around on and off the pitch is outstanding.

Although his first game ended in defeat, the transformation in the way we played was amazing. It was a much more positive and attack minded way of play from us.

Securing survival obviously meant a lot to him and I think I speak for the whole of Wearside when I say his u-turn was easily one of the signings of the summer for us.

He promised he’d stay as long as he given funds to spend, that was the deal. Short and Congerton have certainly stuck to their side of the deal. Although we still need a few faces, so far, we’ve spent well.

Adam Matthews, Seb Coates and Younes Kaboul are three excellent defensive recruitments whilst Jeremain Lens has shone in his two pre-season games.

Parts of what I’ve seen of Lens remind me slightly of Sessegnon. We lacked pace last season and he certainly brings some to the team. He linked up excellently with Johnson in the Hannover game and set up a number of chances, hopefully it is a sign of things to come.

However, if we are to make the most of Lens we need a striker to get on the end of his crosses. Pato has been linked heavily recently, as has Jordan Rhodes. As we can’t afford to wait on Wickham developing his potential any longer, we can’t afford to get this one wrong.

We had the second lowest goal tally in the league last season and need someone who can work Defoe and Lens to change that. Rumours suggest we’re ready to launch a £5million bid for Pato. The Brazilian scored 51 goals in 117 games for AC Milan and last team scored 16 in 44 for Sao Paulo. Although the striker has been critcised for his attitude in the past I’m sure big Dick could sort that out.

Odds have been slashed for Jordan Rhodes to join Wearside. The Blackburn striker earned himself a wonder kid title at Huddersfield scoring 73 goals in 124 games. He then moved to Blackburn for a fee of £8million and has 73 goals in 134 games. The Premier League would be a huge step up from the Championship but stats suggest that Rhodes has no problem scoring.

Moussa Sow has also been heavily linked with us. The Fenerbahce frontman is 29 and older than Pato and Rhodes who are both 25. Sow averages a goal every two games for the Turkish side with 51 goals in 102 games. The striker also plays for his country Senegal.

Each of the aforementioned striker sounds like a decent addition and Advocaat seems to know what he’s doing, he’s spent money wisely this window and hasn’t rushed into any deals.

As well as a striker to bolster the ranks, Yann M’Vila and Leroy Fer are also poised to join the club. The pair would be an excellent addition to our midfield and are almost certainly better than what we’ve got. Imagine a midfield pairing of Cattermole and M’Vila?

One thing that is certain is that Advocaat will have a selection headache if the pair do join. Being able to choose from Cattermole, M’Vila, Fer, Larsson, Giaccherini, Gomez, Rodwell, Lens and Johnson isn’t a bad problem to have.

So, I believe that if we get M’Vila and Fer and then a decent striker, a positive season might be on the cards. With Advocaat only at the club at one season, it certainly looks like he’s building a good platform for whoever comes in.

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Lens delighted...
alexandre pato linked

Sunderland beat Hannover 1-0 on Saturday with Jeremain Lens scoring his first goal for the club. After tha game Lens said: "I am happy to make my first goal, but still it was not an official game, so let's see on Saturday! It's good to end with a winning score, but next week is more important. We have better confidence than the last game and that's what we want. I hope that on Saturday we will be much better."

"I will start the season with a lot of confidence. I have great teammates, everyone has supported me. We have great fans, with that in your hand you cannot have a bad start to the season"

A bit of transfer news now and Sunderland are being heavily linked with French midfielder Yann M'Vila who is currently playing in Russia for Ruben Kazan. We are also rumoured to be getting Leroy Fer on a season-long loan, and sensationally the name Alexandre Pato is being thrown around. Pato was once touted as a future world star but injury problems hindered his development. He has recaptured form after returning to his native Brazil, and it is rumoured that Sunderland may offer £5m for him. Mad.

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1-0 to The Sunderland...
Lens Looks Sexy

Dick Advocaat was a happy chappy following our 1-0 win against Hannover 96, during which Jeremain Lens score a corker and Costel Pantilimon saved a penalty: “It was a fair result in what was another game away from home,” said Advocaat. “The positives were that the team worked very hard to get that result and a lot of players played 90 minutes in warm conditions. Overall I was pleased with what we brought but we also know that we need to bring more than we did today. It is important to remember that we have another away game against Leicester City next week, but this result will give us confidence because it was better than Wednesday [against Doncaster]. We’ve had a lot training sessions during pre-season and the players had to get used to it, but they did and they’re a very positive group. I have to be fair to them because they always work hard in training and I cannot complain; there are still some things that we need to improve but they understand that and we will do so.”
 
On further signings Advocaat added: “Will there be further arrivals? Wait and see. We are still working on that. If we can get something else done, I am sure we will do it. If we cannot, we will do it with this group. But I’m still very hopeful that things will happen this month."

In other news, Alan Pardew has broken his silence and admitted he's close to taking Connor Wickham to Selhurst Park: "It's a deal that I hope we can do. The chairman has been magnificent in backing me this summer.”

Meanwhile, it sounds like SAFC target, Yann M’Vila, is a bit of a radge packet after it emerged that he smashed up his Moscow townhouse! The defensive midfielder has pissed off back to France after falling out of favour at Dynamo Moscow, but as a parting au revoir, the 22 times capped French international made sure he trashed the club owned property before he bailed. Sounds like him and Lee Cattermole might hang out if the deal comes through.

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CONNOR OUT...
BUT WHO WILL REPLACE HIM?

Well we're over in Germany this weekend for our final pre season match against Hannover 96. Jack Rodwell has enjoyed the warm up games, but insists the indifferent performances during pre season are irrelevant and all that matter is the result against Leicester in seven days time. “We want to fine-tune today and make sure we know exactly what we’re doing,” said Rodwell. It’s preparation for the first game, but that’s all pre-season is about. If we can get a good performance tonight – it doesn’t have to be a good result– and then get the sharpness back a bit more from another week of training, then it will set us up for Leicester. If you look all over the board, a lot of Premier League teams lose in pre-season. You can’t put your finger on it, because you should be beating these sort of teams. But you’re working on new shapes, with new players and not everyone’s match fit. There’s loads of different factors, but as long as we’re on it on the first game of the season, that’s the main thing for us. Looking at the last few games of last season, I think we can go into this season with that confidence behind us, knowing that we’ve got a good squad of players after a few signings,” he added. “We want to hit the ground running and get off to a good start. Last season, we were drawing too many games. You’re better off losing half and winning half.

Jeremain Lens is also looking forward to the Hannover 96 game. “My first impression of club is very good,” said Lens. “I have friendly team-mates and I’ve settled in fast especially with the pre-season tour of North America. I’ve trained with the team a lot and got to know the system we will be playing so it was great to have that experience, and I only had two weeks holiday due to when the Ukrainian league ended so I’m at a good level and for me the season can start already. It was good to play my first game against Doncaster Rovers and play with my team-mates for the first time in a proper game, and even though the result was not so good you could see during the match that we’re beginning to understand each other. We have one game left against Hannover until the start of the season and we will look to improve. I know some of the players there and it will be more difficult than the last game, but I’ve seen over the two weeks that we have a good group and if we play from our own quality we can build a good platform to win.”

With Connor Wickham about to move to Palace, SAFC are looking to bring in a functional replacement ASAP, but despite press speculation, Charlie Austin and Fabio Borini are not about to become regulars in The Ivy House. Our new front man is more likely to be the French Senegalese hitman Moussa Sow, who is currently with Fenerbahçe. Sow has an excellent gaols per games ratio both in France and in Turkey. He scored 31 goals in 54 appearances whilst at Lille and has netted 51 goals in 102 games in Turkey.

In other news, reserve keeper, Jordan Pickford, has joined Preston on a season-long loan. Pickford said: “I got the phone call from my agent last night and asked if I fancied it and obviously I said yes. It’s a great chance for me to play in the Championship, I’ve done the other leagues and this is the next step up for me which is great.”

Lee Congerton added: “Jordan is a top, home-grown prospect, who has been part of our academy since he was very young. Playing regular first-team football is key at this stage of his football development and is another step towards helping him progress so that ultimately he is challenging to be our number one keeper."

Elsewhere, Leeds United’s are no longer sniffing around Will Buckley after bringing in Brentford’s Stuart Dallas.

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wickham off
...and more snippets

Unless you blocked out any social media last night you will know about Palace’s alleged offer for Connor Wickham, reportedly in the ball park of £10 million. It is suggested that personal terms are now being discussed. Giving Wickham that new contract last season doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all…

Some more welcome news on the club’s outgoings, as Will Buckley looks set to join Leeds. An agreement has apparently been met by the two clubs and the fee is thought to be in the region of £1.5 million.

Player recruitment now, and reports in Turkey suggest that we have made an increased £12.5 million bid for Moussa Sow. The Fenerbache striker is attracting attention from us and West Ham, but is reported his current club want £14 million for him.

Jack Rodwell is raring to go and hoping for a better campaign this time around with a full pre-season under his belt. “I feel better now I've had a good pre-season,” said Rodwell. “Last season, with the move, I didn't play any games with Man City when we were abroad and I wasn't really training with them either. Then I think I played two 45 minutes for Sunderland and then I was in for the first game against West Brom a week later, so I wasn't anywhere near match-fit. This season, I've played quite a lot so I feel a lot sharper.” He added: “The manager hasn't said much to me personally, but I get the feeling that he wants to get the best out of me and that is a good thing for a player. Obviously, last season didn't go as planned really. A lot of things went on, with the manager changing .But then the new manager came in and did a great job at the end of the season. All the lads are confident now and, looking back at the last few games of last season, I think we can go into this season now with that confidence behind us.”

Sebastian Coates says it was an ‘easy decision’ to leave Liverpool for Sunderland. He said:” Yes, it was an easy decision to come back because I know the manager, my team-mates, the club and the supporters. It was really easy.” He added “The last month of the season changed everything, but that’s football. It was a great month for me and of course that was the best bit of the season for me.”

Sky Live fixtures for October and November have been announced, Sunderland will be shown three times. Newcastle at home will be played on Sunday 25th October at 12 noon, Everton away will be Sunday 1st November at 1:30pm and Palace away will again be shown on Monday night football on the 23rd November at 8pm.

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Donny Match Report
By Sobs

The result isn’t important; it’s all about fitness. Look, I appreciate more than most that there’s a huge difference between being fit and being match-fit. Mo Farah might be the fastest thing on two legs over 10k, but he wouldn’t last five minutes on a football pitch because people would be chasing him, trying to tackle him, and he’d be starting and stopping. Oh, and trying to kick a ball as well. So I know we need to be match-fit, but if it was only about the fitness the fans wouldn’t travel hundreds (last night, and this Saturday) and thousands (USA and Canada) to watch the Lads play. As much use as indicators on a BMW. I know it’s only pre-season, but nowt breeds success like success, and nowt for upping the confidence like winning matches.

Donny is a relatively easy trip by train, so that’s what I did, but made an almost fatal error by taking the wrong exit from the station and finding myself in the Hell on earth that is the Frenchgate shopping centre. It stinks of pizza, and was crammed with pre-pubescent kids shrieking their delight at the freedom the school holidays gave them as the jostled for position on the escalators with the pale, overweight lasses in vests with the badly done tattoos and the pushchairs. I’d come away from Bishop to get away from that sort of thing (apart from the escalator, that was novel), but thankfully I found my way to the proper part of town for tiffin and the chance to use the time-honoured greeting…”aalreet marra?”

The Keepmoat is a nice enough stadium of the type you could drop in any retail park across the UK and stick the relevant club badge on. Donny have done a good job with it, and it’s not their fault that the face of modern football is a fairly bland and characterless one. As ever, the visitors’ end was packed, and the other three side boasted a couple of hundred Yorkshire folks. Obviously we don’t register very highly on the imagination-capturing scale in that part of the world.

So out trotted the Lads to the sort of appreciative roar normally reserved for when someone finishes a cheap energy drink and actually puts the can in the bin. I can’t say I’m keen on Pantilimon’s all-pinkish outfit, especially with the short sleeved shirt and long sleeved one underneath it. Anyway, he took up his position in front of us as we lined up in our Irish away strips:

Pants
Jones O’Shea Coates van Aanholt
Rodwell Catts Lens
Johnson Defoe
Fletch

I’ve put the front three like that because it seemed that was the way Dick had asked them to play, but it does seem to waste the best part of Defoe’s game. You could also argue that Rodwell and Catts sat deeper while Lens pushed forward more, and our new Dutch fella was the pick of our performers in the first half as he swapped left for right and vice versa, and cut inside well.

PVA, the other pacey player in the side, did manage to hit the post early on – but it was a mad attempt at a clearance that bounced off our own woodwork. Doncaster, as teams like them do, had a huge centre-half who seemed to either get in the way of things or encourage his team-mates to do likewise, and were playing the passing game with pace that we’d expected of us. They also had Keegan playing for them. About fifteen minutes in Jones allowed his opponent the space to hit a cross on the volley, and Pants had no chance. We watched in dismay as the ball hit the net in front of us. For the rest of the half we had to be content with the runs of Lens, who had an effort deflected wide in the dying minutes, the tackling of Catts, and Rodwell almost but not quite making a run.

As is the rule with these games, there were wholesale changes at the break. O’Shea, Defoe, Fletch, and Catts departed, and we got our first look at Kaboul, who came on with Graham, Giaccherini, and Seb. The new defender looked quite nippy as he looked to carry the ball out from the back, but he did get turned a couple of times and the home side still looked the sharper of the two as we looked like we were passing it for passing it’s sake much of the time. Seb, as he does, raised the energy levels in midfield a bit, but it wasn’t enough to make a huge difference. As in the first half, the witching hour (minute?) of fifteen arrived and they hit us again, this time via Rodwell’s loose clearance being intercepted and the ball bobbling nicely into the path of Donny’s Forrester, who had a relatively easy job to plant it beyond Pants.

This prompted more changes at the back, with Jones and Coates making way for Beadling (will he actually become a success from the academy?) and Matthews, and while the pair slotted in well enough, the play in front of them didn’t become any more incisive. More tappy-lappy than Premier League class, we shifted it around midfield and retained possession, but (as we’ve said of opponents many times in the past) there’s not much point in having the ball if you’re not going to do anything positive with it. Lens almost lit things up when he hit a cracking shot from distance that drew a fine save from the home keeper. Rodwell, who’d had a night that mirrored last season for him, made way for Bridcutt (rearrange these words to form a well-known phrase or saying “window, shop, this level.”) with twenty to go, then Buckley and Watmore came on for Lens and Johnson for the last ten or so. We knew what we’d get from those two – standard wing-play and energy around the box – but Donny held as firm as they needed to, which wasn’t really that firm, for the win

Man of the Match? Lens, by a mile. He looked exactly like we’d been told he’d be (fast, tricky, and strong with an eye for the shot). Matthews didn’t look that different to Jones, Beadling looked OK, and Kaboul looked like he’ll be fine. So not a good night at the office, but the offer of a lift home via Sixercabs promised an earlier arrival home. That all went up the spout with the night-time closure of the A1 and the associated trip through the country lanes of Harrogate and the surrounding area. They’re obviously warming us up for the roadworks on the way to Leicester and Bournemouth, which is nice of them.

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Lads Lose...
Lens is Good

A disappointing 2-0 loss at Doncaster last night, but Dick Advocaat has played down the importance of last night’s defeat, while also praising the impressive performances of Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul. He said: "The fitness has to be there, but it was a poor result. But hopefully on Saturday we can show how far we are with our progress when we face Hannover. Everybody could see how well Jeremain played, and (Younes) Kaboul also did very well when he came off the bench for the second half.” The gaffer was also full of praise for the supporters who made the trip: "The fans were excellent again and came down in their numbers, making a long journey to back their team for 90 minutes. So hopefully, we can reward their loyal support over the course of the season.”

Advocaat isn’t the only one excited by Lens, Patrick Van Aanholt was full of beans about him too. He said: "That’s Jeremain, he is quick, strong, has a good shot and can play with both his left and right foot. He will create chances and can score goals and I think he showed that last night, he proved to everyone he is capable of being a good player in this league. If he stays fit and keeps doing what he did last night he will excite the fans. We were both young when we faced each other in Holland but now we are playing together. I am still coming up against him in training but that is nice so we can both get better.”

Another name has been added to the transfer rumour mill, this time Rennes midfielder Ola Toivonen. Dick Advocaat is said to be keen to link back up with the Swede having worked with him at PSV. He is an attacking midfielder, which is exactly what we need. Reports suggest that Bournemouth, PAOK, and Trabzonspor are also interested.

SAFC have discounted tickets for Villa away by £10 per ticket, as part of the away fans initiative backed by the club. Reduced tickets are now priced at £31 for adults, £23 for supporters aged over 65s and under 21, £9 for under 18s and just £7 for juniors under the age of 8. 2015-15 season card holders who have 15 or more Black Cat Points can purchase their ticket from 9am on Thursday 30th July until 12:30pm Saturday 1st August 2015. Subject to availability, supporters with 8 or more Black Cat Points can purchase their ticket from 9am on Monday 3rd August until 5pm on Wednesday 5th August. Season card holders with less than 8 points can purchase, again subject to availability, from 9am Thursday 6th August until 5pm Friday 7th August.

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We Had High Hopes For You…
By Stephen Linsley

The signing of Jeremain Lens has been met by Sunderland fans with intrigue and a little excitement. The winger/striker has been lauded by the Dutch press in particular and his international form for Holland and his club record for Dynamo Kiev, among others, is pretty impressive.

But the majority of us, who have been left deflated after new signings fell way short of their hype, are earring on the side of caution. Although (hopefully) not our marquee signing of the summer, with over a month of the transfer window left, the Lens transfer forced me to look back, somewhat poignantly on the summer transfers that didn’t work out. Here is a summary of five of the most disappointing Sunderland deals of the Premier League era. These players may not have been as painfully awful as some, but they all failed to live up to the hype surrounding them on their arrival...

Lilian Laslandes: A time where you just had to have a fancy sounding name to conjour excitement in the Sunderland faithful, but this lad was one of our most expensive players ever and touted as Niall Quinn’s replacement. Signing from Bordeaux for £3.6million, the French international managed just one League Cup goal and failed to score in the Premier League, before leaving for Nice in 2003. Laslandes enjoyed a relatively successful post-Stadium of Light career, but joins a long list of strikers who have had utterly dreadful spells at Sunderland, despite having relatively decent pedigrees elsewhere.

Emmanuel Giaccherni: Not a disastrous move at £6.5 million, but at the time the little Italian was by far the most welcome move of an otherwise turbulent PDC transfer window of 2013. Signing a current Italian international, a regular for a Juventus side fresh from storming the Serie A title (again), perhaps warrants us from expecting more than what has been delivered. Giaccherini, has been unable to nail down a regular first team place, even in times when the side has been crying out for the creativity he can potentially bring. The physicality of the Premier League has made him look feeble at times, but could yet prove us wrong, should Dick Advocaat deem him worthy of another chance.

George McCartney: The left-back re-joined in the summer of 2008, where Roy Keane was no holds barred in spending the money of the nice people at Drummaville. Most of these purchases turned out to be poor buys, Ringo being one of them. McCartney was welcomed back with hopes of replicating his form of the McCarthy era, where a formidable partnership was forged with Julio Arca on the left-hand-side. He was a shadow of his former self, despite a successful jaunt at West Ham in between his two spells on Wearside. McCartney failed to live up to his own standards, and the homecoming was ultimately a disappointing one.

Jack Rodwell: We were left licking our lips at having one of England’s brightest young prospects at the heart of our midfield as Rodwell signed for £10 million from Man City last summer. After scoring on his home-debut, the England international unfortunately still seemed to be hampered by the injuries and lack of playing time he was subject to at Eastlands. Gus Poyet’s decision to play Rodwell as a box to box midfielder as oppose to his preferred holding role probably didn’t help matters, but his form was unrecognisable to his performances at Everton. Like Giaccherini, it’s not yet too late for Jack Rodwell, especially if he regains fitness. However, his first season at the Stadium of Light was certainly one to forget.

Tore Andre Flo(p): Signing from Rangers for a club record £8 million in 2002, there can be no question over the most disappointing Sunderland buy of the Premier League era. The gangly Norwegian scored on his debut against Manchester United to leave supporters buzzing at the potential of a Quinn-Phillips type partnership between SKP and Flo, as Quinny edged nearer retirement. Instead Flo epitomised the massive car crash that was the 2002/03 season, scoring just 4 times all season as we lost 18 of our last 19 league games. Flo failed to score from the 28th December onwards and was moved onto Sienna after our relegation in May.

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donny tonight...
can't wait

Patrick Van Aaanhalt has insisted that fitness is the most important thing in the game at Doncaster tonight. He said: “The Doncaster friendly will be a tough game but, like the head coach said to us, it is not about the result. So the main focus will be building our fitness and making sure our shape is right ahead of next weekend. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time here. I’m sure it will be the same during my season at the club. I want to keep working hard and improve during the new season. Pre season is a great opportunity to get fit and prepare for the new season. I missed the first part of the tour but joined the second part in Toronto, and it was outstanding. Training was great and we won the game 2-1.”

Meanwhile, Doncaster's Richie Wellens is looking forward to the challange of facing Sunderland tonight. He said: “When you play against higher opposition then it’s easier because they want to play, and they’ve got respect. They’re not like League One teams who want to run about and tackle and see if they can run 13km in a game. When you play against League One teams their aim at the most is to stop you, whereas they (higher-class teams) want to get on the ball themselves. It’s difficult because we’ve played teams who are better than us and have more of the ball, so I’d imagine the tactics will be a little different when we’re playing in the league.”

Dick Advocaat believes that the new signings can amend the shortcomings of the team shown in pre-season. He said: “We have done some good things so far (in pre-season) but other things that have not been so good. That’s been a confirmation of what I already knew.” He added:” We had five players sitting in the stands (against Toronto) and they are also good players, so they will hopefully make a difference. This week we should know a little more about things. We’ve had some physical tests so far (in America and Canada) which was what we needed. That will have done us good now that we’re back home. The most important thing for me is that the players are getting into shape.”

Club legend, Julio Arca has joined up with Dick Advocaat’s backroom staff to provide coaching assistant for the Sunderland youth teams and has teamed up with Gary Bennett, to provide coaching in Wearside schools. Julio also has ambitions of managing the club. He said: ”If I get all the way through with my badges and all that, then obviously I would love to manage Sunderland and be back at the club, it would be excellent, but you are looking far, far away at the moment.” Julio added: “It is always going to be nice to be linked with the club that looked after me, as well as Middlesbrough. Sunderland saw me growing up from a young age and Middlesbrough gave me a second chance in the Premier League and looked after me. I am always going to be thankful to the two clubs. If something like that could happen in the future, or I got the chance to be linked with them and to be the manager one day, it would be great.” 

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RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY...
DONNY TOMORROW

After the signings of three defenders so far in pre-season, John O’Shea believes that the array of defensive options available to Dick Advocaat is “a manager’s dream”. He said: ”There’s a lot of competition in defence now and that’s what we’re looking for throughout the whole team. It’s how you get success.” He added:”You need people constantly fighting for places and fighting to stay in the starting XI. Hopefully that’s how we get better results.” None of my dreams have ever involved Younes Kaboul, but each to their own.

Elsewhere, Swansea have reportedly rubbished talk of signing Steven Fletcher as they are confident of keeping hold of Bafetimbi Gomis. That could prove costly in our hope of bringing in a new striker, needing to offload at least one of Fletcher and Danny Graham to vacate a space for another forward.

Young defender, Tom Beadling is determined to break into the first team this season, following his involvement in the North America tour. The 19-year-old said: ”The hard work starts now, I want to be in the mix and experience more. I loved every minute of the experience (America tour). It was different to what I had experience before but I settled well and enjoyed it.” Hopefully this crop of young talent can amend for the all the fruitless years of our academy set-up.

Its seems that Adnan Januzaj has dented our hopes of signing him on loan from Manchester United, as the midfielder is adamant to prove himself to Louis Van Gaal. It seems as if Advocaat will have to look elsewhere for creative midfield options.

Sunderland again face competition from West Ham for the signature of a player, this time Fenerbache striker Moussa Sow. We had been rumoured to be preparing a bid for the Senegal striker, whose contract runs out next year.

And finally, we have not yet given up on the prospect of signing Moussa Dembele from Spurs, according to some reports. However we will face competition from West Ham and Everton for his signature, as well as clubs abroad. What a signing that will be if we can pull that off!

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A truly promising pre-season?
ALS Blog by Stephen Linsley

Just about every pre-season since Sunderland’s return to the Premier League in 2007 has been filled with blind optimism by our supporters.

Whether it’s the over inflated buys of Jack Rodwell and the likes or the false dawns of Martin O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio, we as fans have always seemed to go into every season anticipating success that never materialises. We just keep falling into the trap.

This time around the good feeling around the club following Dick Advocaat’s u-turn, seems to have spilled over to create another feeling of a new era and perhaps placing a façade on yet another summer.

The signings have been met by supporters with some general excitement, despite the apparent lack of a marquee signing and the obvious gaping gaps in the squad that still need to be addressed less than a fortnight before the curtain raiser at Leicester City.

The trust in Lee Congerton seems to be at an all-time-high, with a portion of last year’s buys playing big parts in the Great Escape III, masking an otherwise uninspiring season in terms of player recruitment (notably Gomez, Rodwell, Buckley and Alvarez). The signings of Jeremain Lens and Adam Matthews have been welcome ones, but the jury is out on Younes Kaboul, whose late form at Tottenham was poor to say the least.

The aforementioned shortcomings of the squad are obviously on the attacking side of things. Being on the wrong side of three Premier League thrashings has put a blemish on our defensive record, which was otherwise as good as anyone outside the top 7 last season.

Still without a so-called ‘big signing’, which we all hope will be a creative midfielder or a striker (we desperately need both), the picture of our attacking line is far from complete, with none of the current forwards notching more than a mere five goals last term.

On the midfield front, whilst Larsson and Cattermole had fantastic seasons once again, the lack of Sessegnon-type creative midfielder was evident last season, and the uncertainty over Adam Johnson’s future has made the need for Congerton and Advocaat to up the ante in their search to fill that void, all the more great.
 
Admittedly the Johnson plight and the confusion surrounding the undesirable Ricky Alvarez has put the club, who are very cautious about the over-inflation of the wage bill, in a very difficult position. The plea of Emmanuel Giaccherini for another chance to prove himself in a Sunderland shirt, has added to the dilemma.

However, the seemingly imminent departure of Steven Fletcher may now mean that we get our new striker sooner rather than later, hopefully consigning the painfully average Connor Wickham and Danny Graham to cameo appearances.

Not wanting to be completely negative, improving those two positions could put us in contention for a half decent campaign and the addition of goals to what is a pretty defensively-solid unit, could well have us perched a lot closer to the edge of our seats than we were in a drab campaign last season.

There’s that naive optimism again…

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gloomy monday....
donny on wednesday

Well it's raining cats and dogs outside ALS, but here's the news. Jordi Gomez will miss the start of the season after failing to recover from a fractured knee-cap he sustained in training in April. Dick Advocaat explained: “He (Gomez) will not be ready for the start of the new season. But he will be an option when he is fit. He has qualities which we can use.”

Meanwhile, Dick Advocaat and Lee Congerton are stepping up their search for another striker and possibly a creative midfielder. If we bring another goal scorer in it's likely that Steven Fletcher could be the subject of a £4m bid from Swansea and Danny Graham could also leave. Both players are on the final year of their contracts.

In other news, Jermaine Defoe is hoping to hit the ground running when the season proper begins by getting as many goals as possible under his belt in pre season. I guess that's what you want to hear from our best striker! Defoe said:”Sometimes it helps when you manage to get a few goals in pre-season, just in terms of confidence. I want to make sure I’m ready for those first few games and make sure I’m sharp. We want to get off to a good start as a team to.  Obviously if I can contribute and nick a few goals early on then that obviously helps. The shape seemed to be better in the last match, because it’s something the players are obviously used to. It was a bit laboured at times, but we managed to create a few chances.”

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Fletcher on Swansea's radar....
Sunderland Ladies go top

Steven Fletcher could be the subject of a £4m bid from Swansea, the 27 year old falling down the pecking order at Sunderland. Fletcher has consistently struggled with his fitness since joining under O'Neill in 2012, with his only run of goals coming in his first few games at the club. I don't particularly rate Fletcher anymore, but I'm unsure whether we can let a striker go without first lining up a replacement.

Jordi Gomez will miss Sunderland's trip to Leicester through injury, he is in fact still suffering from the same injury from the end of last season. Dick Advocaat confirmed: “Gomez will not be ready for the start of the season. It will come too soon for him with the training. But he will be an option when he is fit. He has qualities which we can use.”

Meanwhile, Sunderland Ladies beat Bristol 4-1 which propelled them to the top of the league. The lasses have now taken 18 points from 9 games and are ahead of Chelsea at the top of the table.

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Air show marks season-coming....
Marcos Alonso on radar?

Another weekend closer to the beginning of the new season and I'm starting to get quite excited. The airshow always kind of signifies the beginning of the end of pre-season, and therefore today always gets me up for football. Donny on Wednesday though! Yee-haw!

John O'Shea has praised Dick Advocaat for his pre-season camp and admitted he is thrilled that Advocaat chose to prolong his stay on Wearside. He said: “It was great news that Dick was going to stay on, which gave it a bit of an extra buzz. And then with the new signings as well, you want to get back. It was key I think that Dick stayed. That’s credit to Lee (Congerton, sporting director) and the owner who’ve done fantastic business there. Hopefully he does his talking on the pitch now and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

O'Shea admitted that pre-season was quite gruelling, but the squad feel richer for the experience and will allow themselves the chance to refresh before the season starts: “With the work we’ve been putting in on the training ground, you don’t go into the games fresh, you go into them very tired. That’s what we know pre-season is about. You’re putting your work in. The break this year was a little bit shorter due to the internationals, but you still enjoy it. You have a few weeks off and you’re itching to get back in for pre-season and meet up with the lads again.

“The facilities were first class out in America and it was a boost when all the rest of the lads came over to Canada with us. Obviously training then becomes that bit better with the tempo and the competition which we’ve been looking for and what we’ve needed.”

Meanwhile on the transfer front, Norwich are in hot pursuit of former Sunderland loanee Marcos Alonso, who I wouldn't mind us going back in for, even though we do have Patrick van Aanholt. Alonso featured prominently in the team that reached the Capital One Cup Final in 2014, and was equally as proficient going forward as he was defending. After to attempting to land the player last summer, Sunderland resigned in their pursuits to bring Alonso to Sunderland, but if Fiorentina are willing to let him go to Norwich, I'm sure they'd allow him to come here!

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Toronto 1-2 Sunderland....
by Peter whalen

Sunderland recorded their first win on foreign soil with Jermain Defoe’s brace as the lads came from a goal behind to defeat Toronto.

The Black Cats came into this fixture with bad results to their name after defeats against Sacramento and Pachuca. Despite going a goal behind the away side responded in a positive manner ending their tour on a high.

The MLS side started the better of the two sides as the hosts look to get in front early on. Numerous crosses were put into the box although the men in green were never really troubled.

SAFC soon found their rhythm knocking the ball around to good affect before having their first real chance. Billy Jones played in a delightful ball but Defoe couldn’t manage to get his header on target.

Toronto then made a catalogue of changes as they give minutes to players who haven’t really featured much in their domestic league.

Costel Pantilimon also had work to do as he denied a header from close range. Both teams enjoyed spells of possession as Steven Fletcher was next to try his luck. The Striker shrugged of two defenders before getting his shot off but was denied by the shot stopper.

As the lads started to get a foothold in the game Adam Johnson produced a spectacular volley on the stroke of half time but again the keeper prevailed.

Former Sunderland man Jozy Altidore didn’t feature although you would of have thought he was on the pitch with the miss that came next. After neat exchanges in the Toronto frontline the ball was whipped across the face of goal but somehow the player managed to put it wide.

The Lads certainly provided us fans with a better showing than they did in recent matches but went in level pegging at half time.

Good and bad news then followed as the second half got underway. The link to the game decided to misbehave as viewers missed the first five minutes of the second period.

 Although i wasn’t too despondent as it gave my ears a break from that dreadful commentator, a man who got excited every time there was a throw in.

On the 46th minute Osorio put his side into the lead as Adam Matthews gave the ball away cheaply.

With 25 minutes remaining Defoe came back to haunt his former club with a goal courtesy of a deflection. The second goal came minutes later and it was one to saver.

SAFC caught the home side out on the counter attack with some quick flowing football. Matthews found Johnson who then set away Fletcher with the Scottish international pulling the ball back to the on rushing Defoe. The striker made no mistake.

No real chances were carved up after that as the final whistle sounded giving Dick Advocaat’s side the perfect send off from their pre-season tour.

ALS Man of the Match
Adam Johnson got my vote for his display in this game. The player showed trickery throughout, beating a number of opponents on several occasions. AJ also switched the play well and got on the ball as much as he could. It was a good performance from him considering he has only just flew out to join his teammates.

Where were the new boys?
Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul weren’t yet fit enough according to Dick however could play some part in the next game against Doncaster Rovers.

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News, News, News...
Blah, Blah, Blah...

John O’Shea has been kissing Lee Cattermole's ass. Here goes: “You’re always a little worried when a player enters his final year because decisions can be made and clubs can come in, but Lee has committed to Sunderland and it is great news for everyone. Since I’ve been at the club he’s been fantastic for me, you’re always learning from him because of the type of character he is and how he adapts himself around the training ground to keep an eye on everything. It is fantastic news for the club and it is an exciting five years to look forward to.”

In other news, Stewart Downing has explained why he chose his home town team ahead of Sunderland: “I had two years left on my contract at West Ham but there was no talk of any extension. Sunderland were the first to make an offer to West Ham, but as soon as I spoke to Middlesbrough that faded away. No disrespect to Sunderland, I’ve been there on loan and had a good time there. But when I knew Boro wanted me there was only one place I wanted to come and (chairman) Steve Gibson is a very persuasive man.”

Meanwhile, Costel Pantilimon has recovered from his knee injury and is all set for the new season! He said: “It’s nice for me because I’ve recovered from the injury, I’m happy to be back and healthy. I missed the internationals, which were very important for us. But the most important thing is to be healthy now and I hope I can enjoy the rest of pre-season. Every season you want to improve, it’s normal to be like that,” he said. “You have to be able to progress as a player. Both for me, and the team, you need to be able to do that every year. I don’t want to suffer another year like last season. I want to be part of a team getting better results and to be in a position where you can say, we are safe and we can fight for higher places, rather than against relegation. It was important to finish that part of pre-season with a win and a good result for our confidence,” added Pantilimon. “Let’s keep it like that and enjoy the new season.”For a full Chelsea match report Click Here

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Nice Win to Finish North American Tour...
Defoe brace

Dick Advocaat was happy enough that we finished our North American pre season by beating Toronto 2-1, thanks to two Jermain Defoe goals. He said afterwards: “It was a good win; the players gave everything to get a better result than the previous two games. We’ve had a 12-day pre-season camp with two training sessions every day and performances will improve when we don’t train as often. We were much improved in the second half from the first. The two goals are important for Jermain. It will be a good boost to his confidence, they were good goals and we’ve still got another two games to go before the season starts so hopefully there’ll be more to come. There won’t be as many training sessions now and the power will come back. That’s why I reiterate that results aren’t important at this stage, it’s important we go back in good shape. The players have two days off now; after that you will see that they feel much better.”

Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Coates didn't feature, but Lens and Kaboul are set to play against Doncaster next Wednesday. Advocaat said: “Lens will definitely play against Doncaster. He’s further along than the others. Coates has only done a week after playing for Uruguay (during the summer). It makes no sense to get injuries. But Kaboul could play as well against Doncaster. Next week we’ll know a little bit more about things. We have to bring them in. It was too much of a risk to do that today, so probably next week with two weeks to go. We still hope to sign one or two players definitely to make everything a little bit easier.”

Jermain Defoe was pleased with his two goals against his former side, Toronto, even if he did have to put up with a bit of grief from the home fans! “I feel like I needed the pre-season,” he said. “Today was the sharpest I felt in a long time. It’s still a case of getting our fitness up. But at the same time, you want to be sharp, score goals and win the games. We’ve got a couple of weeks until the season starts and we’ve got two more pre-season games. By the time the season starts, hopefully we’ll be ready. It was nice to see a lot of faces that I recognise and it was good, a bit strange but I enjoyed it,” he added. “I had expected the boos a little bit, but that’s part and parcel of football these days. You move on, and I understand that there’s fans who won’t be happy. But I’ll appreciate the fans here and I enjoyed coming back, it’s a fantastic city. Even though I was here for a short space of time, I’ve still got a lot of friends here.”

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One Out, One in...
Deadwood to be Cleared

It looks like Dick Advocaat will have to clear some deadwood and bring some cash in before he can buy any more players, following meetings with Ellis Short. Advocaat explained: “We just bought two players (Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul) and we still hope we can get one or two extra. But we all agree that the players we have bought have made the team and squad stronger. There is more competition in the squad and that is what we need. We are happy that they are here.”

Valentin Roberge, Charis Mavrias, Will Buckley and Liam Bridcutt are top of the list to go, but won't bring much money in. Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham may attract more inertest, but because they are both in the final year of their contracts they won't command large fees. The sale of Vito Mannone could bring in around £2m if he was to move on and with Jordan Pickford waiting in the wings as cover for Pants that might be the way forward. Overall getting some of the above off the wage bill would also free money up to bring in moreplayers, watch this space.

Dick Advocaat is going to try a few different formations when we face Toronto at midnight UK time. The game is being streamed live via http://www.torontofc.ca if you can be asred to stay up to watch it! Dick said: “We will play a little bit of a different system and see how it works out without the new players, because they need some more training sessions. They will start probably next week, but for us it is a very important game. It's about both – fitness and football. At a certain moment you have to change and football becomes the most important, with fitness a little bit lower. But first of all if you want to play well you need that fitness. The players we have bought make the team and the squad stronger, with more competition and that's what we need. We are happy they are here.”

John O’Shea reckons that fitness wise pre season has been a success so far, even if the results have not been amazing. “From the results point of view it has not been good, but from the fitness and work point of view we have been putting in lots of hard work in hot temperatures,” said O’Shea. “That has gone well and hopefully will show in the games later on. The Premier League is starting in a few weeks and we want to score some goals and get some clean sheets. We want to get that mentality started early and it is a good boost coming to Toronto and seeing a couple of the new lads as well as a couple joining the squad. Toronto will provide a stronger test being in the middle of their season, and there are a few players in their team we need to keep an eye on. We have seen some of their highlights from the game at the weekend, and we know some of their players. We know one in particular and if he (Altidore) starts, I am sure he will very much be looking forward to it. Ultimately for us we want to get a positive result, but we know we are in that crucial stage where it is about getting in your fitness work. If we can get the new lads some minutes on the pitch that will be important, and hopefully help us get the win. Most of the lads are in great shape and it has all been positive in that sense. The competition in the squad is pushing everyone, and you have to perform. We are hoping the competition will turn a lot of those draws we had last season into wins, and that we will do better in the league.”

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more pre season craic...
everyone happy!

Patrick van Aanholt has arrived in Canada and is looking forward to some game time. “Toronto is a nice place. It’s been really good since I got here. I’m happy to have linked back up with the squad and to be training with them once again. There’s lots of running and it’s hot out here but it’s what we need in pre-season and I’m really enjoying it. It’s good for your fitness,” he added. “I was sad to miss out on the other two games on tour but I’m happy to be back now and hoping to be involved against Toronto. I’m really looking forward to the game, Jermain [Defoe] has told us bits and pieces about the club and the ground; it should be a good game. “

Meanwhile, Roma could come to Sunderland's rescue by taking Ricky Alvarez off our hands, following our legal problems with Inter Milan. Sounds like the perfect solution!

Finally, Sebastian Coates has hooked up with his SAFC team mates after being on international duty with Uruguay in the Copa America and looking forward to the new season. He said: “I’m very happy to be back training with the team again; it’s nice to see everyone. The sessions have been tough in the heat but we all know that is the main focus at this time of year, to get in shape and be ready for the new season. I’ve been keeping an eye on how the team were doing while they were on tour and I watched the first two games. It’s disappointing to have lost but again, the priority is building up fitness and not putting too much on the results. Hopefully I’ll be involved on Wednesday against Toronto, I know I need to get my fitness up but hopefully the head coach will give me the chance to play, it will be good for me to get some playing time. Toronto have some really good players, obviously Jozy Altidore is there and Sebastian Giovinco is really talented, he’s a key player for them. It will be a good match.”

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One More Game...
And then Home

Jermain Defoe is looking forward to our final North American pre season game, against his former club Toronto FC. He said: “The game with Toronto is going to be good. I’ve got lots of good memories from my time there; I met some great people and they’re a really good club. I’m really looking forward to going back, it’s a nice place to go and I enjoyed living there. They’ve got a fantastic set of fans and I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces when I go back; I’m still friends with the lads I played with there. I know a few people didn’t understand why I left, but for me I just missed the Premier League. I’d played in the Premier League my entire career and I just love my football and I wanted to come back. When you step away from the Premier League you really miss it, that’s why I wanted to come back.”

And of course Jozy Altidore is now playing for Toronto FC and will no doubt score a hat trick: “It gives the game an extra dimension with me going back and obviously Jozy Altidore now playing for Toronto,” Defoe added. “The ground is nice and the pitch was always in good condition. It’ll be a good test for us as they’ve got good players and they’re in the middle of their season and they’ll be fit. I think the game will be more than a friendly; both teams will want to win it! It’s a great way to end the tour with a game like this.”

Danny Graham is also enjoying the warm up games in America: “Pre-season has been good so far; I did a lot of work myself over the summer,” Graham explained. "I played ­90 minutes against Darlington initially, which was tough as I wasn’t expecting to play for so long, but it was nice to know I could do it so early on in pre-season. The games in Sacramento was obviously much different [to Darlington]. The conditions were a lot warmer and there’s been a lot of travelling in the last few days  and that can take its toll. It was a good run-out as most of the team benefitted from it; some of us got 45 minutes under our belts and a few more got the full 90 minutes and the more games we play the sharper we’ll get. Wednesday's game will again be about getting more match time under our belts, that’s the key thing for all of the squad during pre-season,” Graham added. “We need to get that sharpness back and get as many players to have a run-out as we can and hopefully put on a better performance than our last game and end on a high."

In other news, we've been linked with Spurs' creative midfielder Mousa Dembele and Manchester United’s Jonny Evans. Dembele seems the most likely as we already have loads of centre halves, although Evans would be a welcome addition. Norwich are also after Marcos Alonso, shame we aren't in for him too, as we have no cover on the left, but let's not be greedy!

Meanwhile, Jack Rodwell has been happy with the way pre season is going under Dick Advocaat and feels we will be well prepared for the season ahead. “It’s been tough so far, but it’s been sensible tough as well,” said Rodwell. “The manager has obviously got a lot of experience; God knows how many pre-seasons he’s done now. He knows exactly what we’re doing and we’re all on it. Since day one, there’s been running with the ball, which makes the running a lot easier! We still had a bit of jet lag remember after the flight to California. Those games are all about getting the travel and the summer out of our system. And then against Toronto, hopefully we’ll have a bit more fitness and we can up the performance levels.”

Elsewhere, Seb Larsson reckons we can have a half decent season for once, thanks to the quality of the new recruits. Larsson said: “We needed that quality coming in. That’s what we were looking for. We want people playing in the right positions, who can only improve us. Kaboul is someone who has been there and done it and done really well. Hopefully he comes in and is a very good signing for us. And Lens, you don’t get 30 caps for Holland if you’re a rubbish player. It’s been good to meet them and the rest of the boys. I think it’s given the squad a lift and we look a much stronger outfit. We know we have to improve this season, because we can’t keep going on as we have done in the last few years,” he added. “Hopefully there’s signs of better things to come. The one and only aim has to be to get some stability. We’ve got to get away from the situations we’ve been in. We’ve escaped with massive scares two seasons in a row and listen, if you keep getting involved in it, you’re going to get burned sooner or later. But I feel with the signings – and hopefully with one or two more coming in – that will really give us a strong squad and a squad that can be comfortable this season.”

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happy mondays...
this, that & the other

Well it's another week nearer to the start of the season and Jeremain Lens is looking forward to featuring in Wednesday’s game against Toronto FC and he even went as far as claiming that playing for Sunderland is the start of his dream! Let's hope it doesn't become a nightmare! The Dutchman said: “I’ve played in Ukraine for the last two years which was the first time I moved out of Holland. I think it went very well, so for me, there is no problem about adapting in England. It is important that I also get to meet my new team-mates ahead of the new season, and I will try to adapt as fast as possible. For me, it is going to be the start of a dream, so I’m really looking forward to it. I know Dick very well from my time in Alkmaar and PSV. It will be the third time I’ve worked with Dick, and at PSV, I reached my best goalscoring season – 15 in the league – so I hope I will do the same now and score even more. Everybody knows he is a very good head coach and he also gets the best out of the players. In my personal opinion, he is a good coach for me as well because he can reach the qualities I have and make everything come out, so I hope it will happen again. I also know Patrick van Aanholt from my time in Holland and from the national team, so it makes it much easier to settle having those Dutch players and coaches.”

Still with Lens and Dick Advocaat reckons that his fellow countryman is best suited to a 4-3-3 formation. Advocaat said: “We have to think about whether we will stick with the 4-3-3. But Lens is not really a player for a 4-4-2. He can go in between the lines and likes going past his man. We don’t have that with (Connor) Wickham. Connor works his socks off, but he doesn’t go past players, he’s a different type of player. Lens is one who likes to chase players. He can play left and right. He can even play as a striker, sometime I used him like that at PSV. But left or right is his best position because he is always a threat there. We haven’t had that.”

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Pre-season chatter...
beth mead: goal machine

Since the men's team have lost two games in a row, let's abandon them completely and instead focus on the women's team. Goal machine Beth Mead continued to impress in Sunderland Ladies' 4-0 win over Chelsea Ladies, netting a hat-trick in the game. Mead is now the top scorer in the league while Sunderland Ladies rise to second in the table.

Lee Cattermole believes his best years are ahead of him, and he doesn't want to spend them fighting relegation! Catts said: “I feel I’m coming into my best years, I don’t want to spend those years fighting against relegation. We’ve had that in previous seasons but I believe the club can get better and that’s why I signed. Coming back for pre-season, it feels re-energised. The club can really look to push on, it’s on the up. First and foremost stay in the league, that’s vital, and then look to build. We talk about top 10 and that’s got to be the aim. You need strong squads to do that, you need strength in depth. We need to be in the same bracket as Stoke (City), Southampton. That’s where we need to be and I don’t think that’s out of our clutches. That’s something I believe we can get to.”

Despite having Vito Mannone and Costel Pantilimon ahead of him in the pecking order, Jordan Pickford has been given some experience in the first team in pre-season, and it's something he's enjoying, despite the defeats. He said: “It was nice to get the penalty save [against Pachuca], but that only counts for so much. I look at the goals conceded and how I can improve on my game from that. That is what is important.”

"I was part of pre-season a few years ago in South Korea, then been on loan since then, so it’s good to come back here and I’m enjoying it so far. It was my first full game for the first team and good to be a part of the pre-season too. They were a tough side and liked to attack, which obviously means you’re in for a busy game as a keeper. I’ve learnt from the game. As a keeper I need to command my area. John [O'Shea] and Wes [Brown] talk to me throughout the game, which helps too.”

Pickford believes that the pre-season training camp is fantastic in that it lets him gain round the clock experience from his fellow professions: “Being away with the first team is a great learning experience for me and it’s something that I have really enjoyed so far. It’s been tough, which you expect and want from pre-season. In training we are working hard with Tucks [Adrian Tucker] and doing technical work too, kicking, shot stopping, fitness and playing games. I’m learning from Costel and Vito every day too. They talk to me a lot and help me so I just need to keep doing my best and keep learning.” 

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Pachuca ease past woeful Sunderland
by peter whalen

Club de Pachuca 3-1 Sunderland

SAFC fell short in their second outing, this time against Mexican giants Club de Pachuca. The lads would have been hoping to put a win to their name after losing out to Sacramento.

Dick Advocaat’s men playing in their new green away kit couldn’t of asked for a better start. After just five minutes on the clock Jack Rodwell fired the North East club into the lead with a long-range effort.

Sunderland continued to look threatening in the early exchanges with Connor Wickham going close with a free kick. Rodwell then nearly scored his second of the game, this time the ball beating the post.

Pachuca then found themselves level courtesy of Ariel Nahuelpan, who give Jordan Pickford no chance with an excellent header. The Mexican side soon grew in confidence, keeping the ball from SAFC for the majority of the half.

Moments later it was that man again, Nahuelpan put his side in control with an acute finish after his team-mate pulled the ball back for the big man to finish.

The second half was a blur with Pachuca dominating proceedings. Sunderland seemed to be chasing shadows as they started to get outplayed. SAFC had no desire about them, didn’t try to win the ball back and seemed to give up early on.

It was only a friendly so the result wasn’t important although I was very disappointed in the mannerism in which our boys lost.

Things then went from bad to worse as Sunderland then trailed by three goals to one. Pachuca punished the lads with a devastating counter attack before a neat finish to put the game out of sight.

Pickford however had a moment to cherish after denying the penalty taker from putting his side 4-1 in front. John O’shea allegedly brought the man down inside the box but had the youngster to thank after saving his blushes in what was a dreadful penalty.

Pachuca also known as Los Tuzos never looked back once they scored their first of the game and thoroughly deserved the win on what was a frustrating evening for Advocaat and his men.

Jack Rodwell fires Sunderland into the lead with an excellent strike.

What did we learn from this defeat?

It was a good job it was only a friendly. As I have said numerous times we need more signings to make our squad stronger as a whole. This performance would of give Dick food for thought on what positions need to be strengthened and what players need to be showing the exit door. Wes Brown is a player that hasn’t got much to offer and will be lucky to land a place on the bench. New boys Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul are expected to make their debuts next week when Sunderland travel to Canada to face MLS side Toronto.

ALS Man of the match

Initially I couldn’t pick out a single player who was worthy of this accolade. Connor Wickham however showed what he was about and put his foot in on several occasions and produced some neat footwork during the course of the game.

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While You Were Sleeping...
We Got Beat

Most of us woke up today to discover that Sunderland lost 3-1, while we were sleeping, to Mexican Club de Futbol Pachuca. Jack Rodwell’s scored our only goal. Dick Advocaat had this to say afterwards: “Everyone wants to win friendly games - me too. But they are not important; otherwise I would have to train differently to what I do now. The day before the game we have been practising twice. Yesterday morning was very demanding. I’ve told the players that we have to work on the right shape so we know what to do at certain moments against Leicester, physically wise. The rest will then come if everyone is together. I have no doubts about that. It is not nice what you see because they are running and running and running, and not touching the ball. Normally if everyone knows what to do, we have the ball as well. You could see that was the difference between the two teams.”

Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul, Sebastian Coates, Adam Johnson and Patrick van Aanholt will all be available in Canada next Wednesday when we face Toronto. “Six players are coming to Canada, including (the injured Jordi) Gomez,” added Advocaat. “We started well, the first 20 minutes, and then certain players didn’t do what they have to do. That’s when you get the problems. But I have no problem with that, honestly. This is not the first time I’ve done this! I’m focused on Leicester. By then, we need to be the fittest we can be for competition. The games are the best exercise you can get. I know it is good for us.”

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YOUNES KABOUL
BY EVE SAYERS

For £3million, Younes Kaboul is an absolute steal. In my opinion, he’s better than O’Shea, Brown and Coates. And definitely better than Vergini.

The Frenchman signed on a four year deal from Spurs and will certainly bolster our defence. He’s different to any of our current centre-backs in the sense that he’s well-built and pacey. I can’t remember the last time we had a quick centre-back.

Kaboul had a decent few seasons with Spurs and ultimately ended up club captain so will bring a wealth of experience. If he can stay fit, he’ll be a masisve player for us. Our defence slipped up far too many times last season and it’s good to see that Advocaat and Congerton are addressing the issue.

He also has some versatility about him and can play at right-back and defensive midfield which gives us plenty of cover should anything happen to Jones, Matthews or Catts.

For me, Kaboul will replace Brown. It’s unlikely that Brown will be a regular next season so will most likely move to back-up. The defensive partnership looks like it will be O’Shea and either Coates or Kaboul but either way, at least there’s some competition for positions.

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JEREMAIN LENS
BY EVE SAYERS

Our biggest problem last season was definitely scoring goals. We struggled massively in that department with our biggest win standing at 3-1.

We managed just 31 goals, the second lowest in the league. Hopefully Jeremain Lens can help to alter that.

The Dutchman scored 10 goals in 49 games for Dynamo Kiev and 34 in 96 for PSV. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a lot better than Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher’s recent form for us.

Lens seems confident in his ability in that he’s got pace and can play as a winger. This is excellent news as it means no more watching Wickham try to play on the wing as it’s pretty agonising to see. It’s good news to Defoe too, who after the Sacramento defeat, admitted he wasn’t a winger.

He was part of the Netherlands side that finished third at the 2014 World Cup so Lens can bring international experience as well as European.

He certainly fits Advocaat’s criteria of attacking players and the fact Lens was keen to work under Big Dick again highlights the importance of bringing Dick back.

Although Lens is a cracking capture, I believe we still need to add another striker to the ranks. Steven Fletcher is rumoured to be away to Celtic however his wages are thought to be a stumbling block, but even if Fletcher stays, we still need something extra. However, at the minute our priority has got to be a creative midfielder.

As bad as our goal scoring was last season, the strikers are not the only culprits, at times they seriously lacked service. Fletcher had more chances in the game against Arsenal than he did all season and that is definitely down to Advocaat’s tactics. So if Dick is to continue with his 4-3-3 formation then a creative midfielder is definitely needed.

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lens love in...
defoe happy

Danny Graham has welcomed Jeremain Lens’ arrival despite the fact it probably means he'll play less next season. “It’s an exciting signing for us. It gives us more competition and keeps everyone on their toes which is a good thing. We need a big squad to keep up in the Barclays Premier League and that’s what we were missing last year. You need as many players in as many positions who are more than capable to step up when needed. I think he’s a really good signing, I don’t know too much about him but I’m sure he’s a good player – if the head coach wants him here he must be good and I think it gives the strength in depth that we were lacking last year.”

Jermain Defoe was also in a positive frame of mind in the build up to the new season. He had this to say: “Training has been good, it’s what we need to get conditioned to make sure we’re in top-top shape for the start of the season. The head coach has been making us play small-sided games and they’re intense,” he continued. “Because it’s so hot it’s almost like you’re working twice as hard in each session but it’s what we need to be ready to go.”

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Kaboul Arrives...
£3m

We have brought in another player, this time Younes Kaboul from Tottenham Hotspur, for £3m. Kaboul had this to say: “I’m delighted to be a Sunderland player and it’s an honour to join this club.” I would like to thank Lee Congerton and the head coach for making this move possible and I can’t wait to start playing for the Sunderland supporters.”

Head coach Dick Advocaat added: "He is a very experienced player, which is what we need. He has shown that in his time at Spurs and he will be a very good addition to our squad."

Lee Congerton also chipped in: “In Younes we have signed an established Premier League player with pace and power at the back, which are qualities required in the modern game. We’re pleased that he’s agreed to join the club and he will bring good competition to the squad.”

Overall Kaboul seems quite excited to be here, either that or good PR! “It is an honour and I’m delighted to join Sunderland,” said Kaboul. “Everything went quickly but I’m very happy to be here and it is a good opportunity for me, so I can’t wait to meet up with my new team-mates and for the first day against Leicester City. I will give the maximum every time I play and have no regrets by giving everything in each game, of course a season is very long and you will have ups and downs but the most important thing is to stick together with the fans and the team.” He continued: “I can’t wait [to play at the Stadium of Light] and every time we played here we were preparing from Monday because knew what we were going to get. The atmosphere is unbelievable and when Sunderland score the entire stadium goes crazy which is a joy. Joining Sunderland today is perfect.”

Jermain Defoe is looking forward to teaming up with Younes Kaboul again having played with him at Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmout: “Younes is a winner and a natural leader on the pitch and he’ll come to the club and bring that attitude – he’s a great signing for us. Even in training he was always going for it, running, tackling, heading, attacking – fans will love what he’ll bring to the team. Dick Advocaat asked me what I thought of him and I told him if you can get him he’ll be a top signing. He’s a great guy, obviously I played with him at Tottenham for a few years and then again at Portsmouth. He’s a top player and a top professional. Younes messaged me about the move and he’s looking forward to linking up with the squad,” Defoe added. “He was Spurs captain and he is a leader on the pitch. Physically he’s so strong and I think he’s a player who has got everything and I think he’ll do really well at Sunderland.”

Meanwhile, Danny Graham has been chatting about sightseeing in San Fran: “It was a really nice trip,” Graham said “It was a break away from the training pitch after a couple of intensive days and it gave everyone the chance to have a break and have some team bonding time. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and going up so close to Alcatraz was quite an experience. I’ve always wanted to see Alcatraz, it was a shame we couldn’t actually go in and see it properly but still it was a great experience  - we took plenty of photos and the Lads got all their selfies.”

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something good has happened...
lens arrives

We have finally made an exciting signing by bringing in Dutch international Jeremain Lens. The 27-year-old, who can operate as a striker or on either wing, has joined from Ukrainian side FC Dynamo Kyiv for £8m, on a four-year deal. Lens has 30 caps for Holland and has scored eight goals. Dick Advocaat said: “We have signed an international player and I am delighted to welcome him to Sunderland. He is a very well-known player in Europe and has played over 30 games for the Dutch national side, which shows his calibre. I have worked with him twice already, at PSV and AZ, so I know him well; he is fast and he has scored goals everywhere he has played so that will help the team.”

Jeremain Lens himself had this to say: “I’m very happy to be a Sunderland player. I think it is a good club and it is a great step for me to play in the Barclays Premier League. I followed the team last season following the arrival of Dick Advocaat and we have a good team, so as I said I’m really happy to be here. I’ve played for the Dutch national team and played a lot of games in Europe, but the Barclays Premier League is the main test so it will be really good to play some games here. I can play on the left wing, on the right wing and also as a forward, my qualities are that I’m fast, I can score goals and I can create chances so I’m hope that the supporters will see a lot of my qualities this season. I watched the derby against Newcastle United and the supporters were really amazing, so I’ve got a good impression of the fans and I hope they support us in the same way during the new season.”

Lee Congerton added: “We’re absolutely delighted to sign a player of Jeremain’s quality, who has Champions League experience and is a regular for Holland, one of the world’s strongest national teams. He’s a direct and quick player with or without the ball and those characteristics are something we’ve been lacking as a side.”

In other news, Jack Rodwell is happy with the way pre season is progressing, despite the defeat against Sacramento. “It’s only our first game in the States, and there’s a lot of jetlag in the players but onwards and upwards,” said Rodwell “It’s just about getting minutes under your belt, and match fitness. It’s all about, first game of the season, being on it. Training’s been sharp, it’s been good. Everyone’s been flying. I think we’ll get better in the next game.”

After missing out on St Petersburg's Nicolas Lombaerts, we are now in for Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul, who only played 15 times for Spurs last season and has just a year left on his contract. Spurs want £5m for Kaboul, who has turned us down before. Let's see what happens this time!

In other news, Santiago Vergini has joined Spanish La Liga side Getafe CF on a season-long loan deal. He made 51 appearances during his time at SAFC, a lot more than I thought.

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sacrE bleugh!...
sacremento match report

The lads started of their tour with a narrow defeat. The visitors never got going in the early stages with the home team putting Advocaat’s men under pressure. Sacramento controlled the game but didn’t cause the backline of Sunderland to much danger.

SAFC soon found their feet and looked to poise a threat of their own as the half went on. Jermain Defoe had the first real opportunity for the Premier League side, linking up well with Steven Fletcher before firing just wide.

Numerous corners followed as Sunderland started to stamp their authority on proceedings but it was the opposition who was next to try their luck. After a little scramble in the box the ball presented itself to the player who had beaten Mannone but fortunately for the lads had also beaten the post.

Adam Matthews then found himself down the wing with Fletcher waiting in the middle. Matthews played in a sublime ball with the Scottish international heading against the bar on the stroke of half time.

Lee Cattermole was the player who stood out in red and white as the two sides went in level. The SAFC talisman was a joy to watch on the ball, spreading the play with his long passing and finding his man time and time again. Jack Rodwell and Matthews also impressed in the opening period with the pair trying to make something when in control of the ball.

It didn’t get any better in the second half as the home side dominated throughout. A number of changes were made in the Sunderland side with Liam Bridcutt adopting a new position in right back with Danny Graham, Will Buckley and Connor Wickham also taking to the field. Tom Beadling partnered Wes Brown as Rodwell was deployed in the left back position.
 
Whether it was players playing out of position or tired legs, Sacramento took full control of the out of sought Sunderland side.

After numerous attempts on goal, Cameron Iwasa fired past Mannone putting the Californian side in the driving seat. The lads never looked like getting level as the US side continued to threaten hitting the bar in the process.

The positive highlight of the second half was Duncan Watmore getting a run out. The England youngster had his two shots saved after tormenting the defence of Sacramento.

Sunderland couldn’t find a late goal and suffered defeat in their second pre-season outing. The lads will now face Club de Futbol Pachuca on Friday.

ALS Man of the Match: Lee Cattermole.

Who needs to go?

Will Buckley is the first name that needs to find a new club. Buckley isn’t good enough and his performance here didn’t do him any justice. Liam Bridcutt is also another Poyet signing that needs to be looking elsewhere. Sunderland fans have their own reservations on Connor Wickham although if Dick is to play the 4-3-3 formation I don’t see Wickham playing in his preferred role, he isn’t as good as Jermain Defoe. With Jermaine Lens having his medical at the Academy of Light today that could see the former Ipswich man dropped to the bench.

Jermaine Lens

Lens is having a medical with the club today in a fee believed to be in the region of £9 million. The Netherlands international will certainly bring pace and creativity to the table, something we desperately need if we want to avoid another relegation battle. Once this signing is confirmed hopefully more will then follow.

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SAFC LOSE...
MEDICALS FAILED AND PASSED

Sunderland have suffered their first defeat of the pre season, oh well, it counts for nothing. Dick Advocaat had this to say after the 1-0 loss Sacramento Republic. "Obviously if you lose it’s not good, but for me it’s more about getting in the right shape for the opening game of the league season against Leicester. You could tell that Sacramento are in the middle of their season and we are not yet at the same place and we also had to change the team at the break. A number of the international players have only been back a few days, but we still have another two games here. We need to get into better shape and we will get there. The result is never as important in pre-season. The players are training hard and that’s more important than the way we play at the minute."

On the transfer front it seems that Jeremain Lens will undergo a medical at the Academy of Light today, before completing a £8m switch, but the Nicolas Lombaerts deal has collapsed after he failed his medical, which is pretty rare these days! Lombaerts, however, denies that he failed the medical! madness: "I've made the choice not to move to Sunderland. The story of the medical testing is not right.'' But Lens has even tweeted an image of him jumping on the plane to Sunderland!

In other news, Sunderland's US Tour squad will be boosted by the arrival of Adam Johnson, Sebastian Coates and Patrick van Aanholt who are set to jet out after missing the first game due to legal reasons (AJ) and injury.

Finally, Jackson Adams has been banned from all SAFC matches for three years after he invaded the pitch in a horse mask and stuck two fingers up at Newcastle supporters, while celebrating our 1-0 derby win at the SOL on April 5. I laughed at the time, but I bet he's gutted now. You live and learn.

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under the lens...
he's on his way

Dynamo Kiev midfielder Jeremain Lens has confirmed he is in talks with us over a prospective move to SAFC: He said: “I’m not having a medical examination, but I am in talks with Sunderland. I have never made a secret of the fact that I like the Premier League. Despite Dynamo playing in the Champions League, now it seems like a great opportunity to make the switch. Me and Dick Advocaat have previously worked well together at AZ and PSV. We know each other – that’s ideal. It’s not all there yet, but it should be clear that I am really keen on a transfer.”

In other news, Emanuele Giaccherini has targeted the creative role in our central midfield three in an attempt to get a regular starting place. The Italian, who entering his third season at SAFC, has yet to hold down a regular place in the team due to injuries and lack of form, but has also showed flashes of brilliance during that time. However, with Jordi Gomez sidelined through injury, Giaccherin is keen to take advantage. He explained: “I like to fight for a starting place because that competition brings the best out of you. I need the competition. We’re in the Premier League and in the Premier League, there are a lot of strong players. I’m working hard for the chance to start and I hope I can stay among the starting XI players. Yes, I want to be in the central three. That’s my position, both for Juventus and the national team. I’m working to play for Sunderland and if I can do that, then maybe I can go with the national team to the Euros.”

Meanwhile, new boy, Adam Matthews, reckons he feels right at home at Sunderland. He explained: “It’s been really good, I don’t feel like I’m new around the place and all the boys have made me feel really welcome. I’m really very happy with everything, and how it’s all going. I’m fully expecting to have an initiation while I’m here [on pre-season tour], I’ve got a few ideas but I’ll not say yet what song I’m going to sing as I’ve not decided yet. I’ve had a couple of conversations here and there with the head coach since I’ve arrived and he seems a really nice guy, he’s got a lot of experience so whatever he’s got to say to you, you listen and take it on board.”

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Slow Progress...
Monday Monday

Well the players are in California preparing for our Dynamo Kiev midfielder Jeremain Lens has confirmed he is in talks with us over a prospective move to SAFC: He said: “I’m not having a medical examination, but I am in talks with Sunderland. I have never made a secret of the fact that I like the Premier League. Despite Dynamo playing in the Champions League, now it seems like a great opportunity to make the switch. Me and Dick Advocaat have previously worked well together at AZ and PSV. We know each other – that’s ideal. It’s not all there yet, but it should be clear that I am really keen on a transfer.”first game over there, which takes place tomorrow against Sacramento Republic. Meanwhile, it seems that Santiago Vergini and Charis Mavrias are not part of Dick Advocaat’s plans, having been left behind in Sunderland to train with the kids. I guess the message there is find another club lads!

In other news, it seems more and more likely that Stewart Downing will turn us down to join his boyhood club Middlesbrough from West Ham. However, we are apparently edging closer to a £7m deal with Dynamo Kiev for Dutch international winger, Jeremain Lens and we are also pushing ahead with our pursuit of Belgium international Nicolas Lombaerts, who is currently with Zenit St Petersburg. We had agreed a fee of £5m for the 30-year-old centre-half who has 35 senior international caps. However, Zenit have introduced a number of clauses that we are toing and froing with right now.

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Advocaat on Pre-Season challenge...
defoe excited for Toronto return

I've just seen local lads Frankie and the Heartstrings on Channel 4 and it's got me in the mood to go to the Stadium of Light and see some football, unfortunately it would be a bit pointless heading over there now, seen as Sunderland are on the other side of the world.

Dick Advocaat reckons that North American tour will be a challenge, both in terms of the teams we're facing and the demanding fixture schedule. He said: “The tour will be a very demanding trip. We’re travelling to San Francisco which has a different time and different weather, so we have to look at everything and ensure when we come back we’re in the right shape. Darlington put a lot of pressure on us and we weren’t used to that because we’re in a different period, but it was a good session for both teams.”

"I was very surprised with what they did from the start – they were very sharp and applied a lot of pressure – but it was good for us because we thought it was a training session, and a training session for us at the moment is a little slower so it was good. It is always good to play in your own area because the supporters want to see you, so that was also positive.”

A player who does know what it's like to play across the pond is Jermain Defoe, who moved from Toronto FC in January. It's not all poutine, maple syrup and legalised marijuana you know! Defoe said: “Going to places like America and playing against teams out there is fantastic,” said Defoe. “Even though it’s pre-season you want to try and win all the games and take that into the season. The teams over there are very fit because the facilities over in America have got everything, and the conditions are warm so it’s almost like you are working twice as hard but it’s good because you come back twice as fit.”

A little more specifically about Toronto FC, Defoe described the club positively, saying: “They’re a good team with good supporters and, knowing their players like I do, they will want to win. On a personal note it will be nice to go back and see friends, but I want to go there and win the game. Once you start playing games you can really feel where you’re at physically, and then it’s just a countdown to the first game of the season.”

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Pre-season report...
by peter whalen

What did we learn from Sunderland’s win at Heritage Park?

The lads took to the field on Thursday night where they faced a determined Darlington side. It was clear that SAFC had only returned to training a few days earlier after proving to be sloppy in possession and far to slow distributing the ball. It was only a friendly although I did expect more from Sunderland.

It took us to trail by two goals before we even looked to carry out an attack. The intensity was poor, especially in the first half with the visitors not really putting the Quakers under any real pressure. SAFC were always going to be the fitter of the two and that proved to be the deciding factor come full time.

Yes, as this article previously stated it was only a pre-season friendly, no points were up for grabs, no pressure on the players shoulders. Every Sunderland fan will tell you the attributes we need to sign are pace, creativity and someone who can put the ball in the back of the net. A winger, striker, playmaker and centre back are the gaps that need to be filled and quick.

We have some talented players although do we have enough to not be in a relegation scrap? The answer is no. The sooner we get these players in the more confident I will be heading into the upcoming campaign. Dick Advocaat certainly has his eyes set on a number of targets.

Best and Worst performance

Academy product Tom Beadling endured a nervy start to the game being dispossessed several times. Striker Danny Graham seemed to have that extra yard of pace compared to all the other players in red and white. All that extra work in the gym seems to be paying off. Keep up the good work Danny!

Darlington 1883 2-4 Sunderland AFC

The hosts found themselves in dreamland after two goals in quick succession. Darlington were fast out of the traps putting the lads on the back foot, with pressure high up the pitch. This caused Sunderland to make their own mistakes and Lee Cattermole found himself at fault for the opening goal. The second goal wasn’t any better with a long ball put over the top of for the player to lift it over Jordan Pickford. The England youngster made the decision to come out and then hesitated as the ball was lifted over him.

Emanuele Giaccherini reduced the deficit after turning in Adam Johnson’s free kick. After not having many opportunities in the first half, Dick made changes before the second half got underway. Jermain Defoe, Patrick Van Aanholt, Cattermole and Pickford all made way.

The second half saw the lads kick towards the travelling end and the visiting support had plenty to shout about. New boy Adam Matthews found Graham who toyed around with the Darlington back four before producing an acute finish to level proceedings.

Just as the home side started to fatigue the referee awarded Darlington a penalty. Vito Mannone wasn’t going to be beaten and got down well to deny his side going behind for a second time.

Connor Wickham’s tidy finish and Giaccherini’s sublime strike ensured the visitors rounded of their first pre-season friendly with a win.

SAFC on tour

The lads now head over to America and Canada where they will face three opponents. Sacramento Republic are the first side Sunderland will face before matches against Club de Futbol Pachuca and Toronto FC.

Doncaster Rovers will then welcome Dick Advocaat’s men back to the UK with a fixture at the Keepmoat stadium.

The beginning of August will see Sunderland on their travels again, this time to Germany where they will end their preparations with a match against Hannover 96.

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Wickham wants to play in centre...
defence competition

Dick Advocaat is hoping that competition in the defence will sharpen the performance of those already in the team, and that the extended break for international players has allowed them a fair recovery time. He said: "It was important for the international players to have a break because they needed it, but they're back today and there will be more competition so everything feels like it's getting closer and closer which I like to see. Everybody has to show to us that they want to play because there will hopefully be more competition in the squad than last year."

Another thing for our defenders to consider is the arrival of a new face. Nicolas Lombaerts is expected to move to Sunderland in the next few days, with the transfer fee looking to equal around £7.2 million. Lombaerts is 30 years old so should be very much at the peak of his defensive career, with a wealth of experience under his belt.

Connor Wickham admits that this will be his defining season at Sunderland, after never really having a solid campaign, merely purple patches. He said: “I was thinking about things when I came back into training the other day, and this is my fifth season here at Sunderland now. I can’t really believe it’s been four years already since I signed, but there is eventually a time where you have to really start thinking about what you’re doing, why you’re here and what you want to achieve. I think, for me, that time is now. I have to keep working hard and then things will come.”

Connor also stated that he prefers to play in the centre of the pitch and thinks that's where he has performed best his whole career: “Last season, I was put on the wing for the majority of the season, so this year the target has to be to get a bit closer to the centre of the pitch. I want to be playing down the middle, and be more of a target man. I think that enables me to bring more to the team. That was the case at the end of two seasons ago. I was put down the middle for the last few games, when I came back from Leeds, and that’s when I scored the goals and had my best spell for Sunderland.

What do you reckon, should we give Wickham more time in the centre? Give us your views. ALS on Facebook and @als_fanzine on Twitter.

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Off To A Winning Start...
All Good

Well we got off to a decent start to our pre season with a 4-2 win over Darlington at Heritage Park last night. Billy Jones had this to say afterwards. “Obviously you want to start pre-season with a win,” said Jones. “I made my debut here last year so we knew it was going to be a tough game and knew was going to be competitive. We showed a bit of character though to come from 2-0 down and that it exactly what pre-season is for, because you’re going to make an error now and then and you need to get them out of your system before the start of the season. Darlington made a really good start to the game and they gave us no time on the ball which is what we try to do in training, so to have that pressure in a game was a really good test for us. The keyword last season was frustration so I’m hoping to play a lot more games and make a good impact during the upcoming campaign. Pre-season is a massive part of that and last year my first hamstring injury came just before the start of the campaign, so hopefully I can come through pre-season without any problems and put my name in the frame for the game against Leicester City.”

Meanwhile, new boy Adam Matthews reckons we can stay away from the relegation zone this season with Dick Advocaat in charge. Now that would be nice! “I spoke to the manager and he said he is going to try and bring a few more players in,” he said. "I think we should be finishing higher than we did last season. I’m sure if we start the season as well as we want to, we will finish higher.”

Matthews went on to chat about how quick his move to Sunderland came about. “It happened quite quickly to be honest,” he said. “My agent said Sunderland were interested on the Wednesday, I went into training on Thursday and heard nothing, and then on Friday he texted me to say Celtic had accepted a bid. It hasn’t really had time to sink in yet, but I am enjoying it. I turned up to train with Celtic thinking I would be there for the season, but obviously when Sunderland came in I spoke to my agent and it seemed like a good fit. When you’re young, the Premier League is the league you want to play in so hopefully I can get an opportunity to do that with Sunderland. We haven’t really worked on tactics this week, it’s more about getting everybody’s fitness up and it’s been a lot of running,” he added. “Later I think he’ll go for the tactical and tell us what he wants us to do. This is only the first game and I think you could see by the way we started we weren’t match sharp. But as the game went on I think we grew more confident and we scored some good goals in the end.”

Finally, Emanuele Giaccherini was not arsed about his two goals against Darlo and just wants to feature more this season. “I’m happy to be back playing for the first time and playing 90 minutes,” he said. "That’s good for my fitness, although I was tired in the last 15 minutes. The goals don’t matter, because that’s part of football, but for fitness after the injury, it’s okay. I forgot that it was at Darlington that I got injured last season with the groin, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this season because I want to play all of it. Last season was really, really hard because I had to watch the games from the stands. That’s tough. But now we’re starting again and this season for me is so important. The injuries are part of football, but now I’ve forgotten the injuries and this season is another season. I want to play as many games as possible and after that there’s the Euros.”

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Darlo 2-4 Sunderland...
match report

Sunderland won 4-2 in a pre-season friendly against Darlington, a match we looked to be set to lose heavily after 20 or so minutes! The Northern Premier League Division One North side took advantage of some lax defending to convert two goals early on, but Sunderland battled back and after a brace from Emanuele Giaccherini, as well as a goal a piece from Connor Wickham and Danny Graham, Sunderland sailed to an easy victory....ha!

Pickford (Mannone, 45), Jones (T Robson, 74), van Aanholt (Matthews, 45), Bridcutt (Smith, 74), Brown (Brady, 45), Beadling, Giaccherini, Defoe (Wickham, 45), Graham, Cattermole (Buckley, 45), Johnson.

I do like pre-season. It's one of the few occasions watching Sunderland where I can actually enjoy myself without the crippling fear of losing spoiling my day. Darlo really should have been an easy run-out but we certainly made hard work for ourselves.

I was happy to see Tom Beadling in the starting line up, we have a bit of a centre-back shortage at the moment (a recurring theme at Sunderland) and I was excited that he might be in the long term plans at Sunderland. All excitement left me after his first half performance. His partnership with Brown looked new-born, umbilical cord still attached. Beadling lacked confidence, strength and understanding of the game.

I was also disappointed that Brown didn't take the lead, a player as experienced as him should see a young centre back struggling and tell him what the craic is. Darlo are a lower league team playing a Premier League side and they're going to chase down every loose ball, they're going to show their teeth and eventually they're going to get lucky.

The first goal was, in truth, a good finish. A strike from outside the box which shocked Pickford and got the better of him from range. He should have been closed down in that sort of area but I don't think anyone pitchside was expecting him to hit it from there. The second was a calamity, a long ball which wasn't dealt with, Pickford in two minds, half-way between coming out and staying in, probably the worst thing he could have done, as the attacking player was left with a simple lob to double the lead.

Cattermole and Bridcutt were paired in the centre to mild success, with Bridcutt occasionally drifting out wide when Johnson came inwards. I was surprised to see Johnson play to be honest, I didn't think we'd ever see him again, but it was clear even in the few times he got on the ball that he's a class above, a naturally talented footballer with a chip on his shoulder the size of Keel Square.

We pulled one back through an Emanuele Giaccherini poacher's effort. A free kick was delivered by Johnson and the little Italian was well placed to convert it. Poetic justice given his injury at the same stadium this time last season.

We equalised early in the second half through a Danny Graham scorcher. By that I mean he scuffed it and it trickled past the keeper. I saw Danny Graham score a goal. That would make a canny t-shirt...Darlington nearly replied immediately after winning a penalty, but Vito Mannone, the half man-half shark, made a great save to keep us in the game.

Connor Wickham put us ahead soon after that. I think the Darlington players were distracted from being in the presence of such a global superstar and holiday-wear fashion icon, and Wickham was allowed to slip in and meg the keeper as a result. I wanna live like Connor Wickham. My girlfriend asked who it was who scored, I told her and she replied 'Oh is it? I've never seen him with clothes on before.' There you gan.

We settled the game with a fabulous strike from little Giacchy. I think it was fabulous anyway, I went to get a cup of tea from the van and only saw where he was standing when the crowd cheered, and he seemed like miles out. You take your eyes off for a second and you miss a goal. My bad.

It's a decent win, decent score. All very decent. We need to sort out the defence though. I'm not going to criticise Beadling too much because ultimately he's a young lad who probably only found out he was playing, this morning. He didn't look at all ready for the Premier League though so we desperately need cover, assuming that Coates and O'Shea will be the centre-back pairing with Brown filling in when he can. It's not enough is it?

Danny Graham looked the sharpest of the forwards, as he did towards the end of last season. Still wouldn't like him as a starter though. I think we're going to have to bring in at least another striker with Fletcher surely shooting off somewhere? All credit to Mr Giaccherini though for scoring a brace in a game he really should have been muscled out of. If he stays fit he could be the game changer this season. No manager has got the best out of Giacch yet (apart from maybe Ball) so it could be Big Dick's crowning achievement to do just that, we'll have to wait and see!

Anyway, was a pleasure to visit Bish Vegas, the land of the Sobs, and I look forward to our next display, hopefully with a new signing by then.

Final Score: Darlington 2-4 Sunderland

ALS Man of the Match: Emanuele Giaccherini

Chris Thompson

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Pre Season Begins...
At Last

Well at last we have a game of football to watch. It may just be a pre season affair against Darlo, but the match is sold out, the ALS buses are sold out and we are excited! Not only that, but big Dick has given his first press conference since the last day of the last season, so we will actually have some real news, instead of loads of speculation. First up Dick was chatting about buying players. All good: “We will definitely have some more by then (the time they return from North America) or there is something wrong. But then on the other hand, if I cannot get the right players, I don’t buy them. I don’t like to waste money. I’m looking for players that I know will make the team better. That’s it, not the same level, a little bit better. I buy players for a certain position, because I know what I want. It’s great very quiet at the moment with buying new players,” he added. “But for the teams abroad, when you try to get a player, they think the money is there so they ask for so many pounds. It’s very difficult. I know what I want, but it is not so easy to get them in. We have several things going on at the moment, but not so close that they are nearly signing.”

He then answered all the "Why did you change your mind?” questions! “Money” was his first reply and his Mrs was his second! “She’s happy, I’m happy and that’s what it’s all about. In principle, it was really clear that I would not come back. But Lee and the president, especially Lee, kept ringing me and asking me what I’d do. The family heard that as well and at a certain moment we had a discussion about it and we agreed ‘why not?’ I was intending to take a national team to be honest, but I really enjoyed it last season and I feel so comfortable and positive in myself.”

He is also clearly made up about the £2,000 raised to send his Mrs flowers. “That was something special, also to her – it says everything about the club. If I feel that connection with the players is not there anymore, then I will definitely quit. But the connection has been really, really good with the players so the motivation is there. If you feel that as a manager, then it is too early to stop. It's a new season, with new ideas and we want to get in some other players as well to make the squad stronger. We’ve already brought in two (Sebastian) Coates and (Adam) Matthews which is good. Lee did a really great job in buying Coates for £2m from Liverpool because Liverpool paid £7m. Matthews has to fight with the other full-backs for the position, in the way I like to play. And we have to try to get in some other players as well.”

In other news, Dick Advocaat has told Santiago Vergini he will have to leave the club, despite the contract wrangle, which effectively means that we are legally bound to sign him! Dick said: "It's a new season and I have to be straight and honest with people. I don't want to go on with him, with all respect. I'm sorry for Santi, but he has to go and find another club."

Meanwhile, despite being unable to have the same training schedule as the other players, because of his dodgy knees, Wes Brown reckons that he's raring to go! “I’m feeling fresh after coming back to training and I’m looking forward to getting back underway,” said Brown. “I missed the end of the season after playing against Everton when I was needed but I’ve had a good rest and I’m raring to go. The intensity has been up there and the lads are all working very hard in training, and I don’t think the head coach will let those levels drop throughout the season which is going to be a big bonus for us. It is brilliant that Dick Advocaat has decided to stay with the club because he’s been top class since he arrived. He got the best out of the lads and he was exactly what we needed, so we need to have a positive start and replicate how we played at the end of the season and how we’re playing in training. There were a few discussions before the season finished but I was more than happy to continue and so were the club, so we sorted it out and I’m pleased to be here for another season. I love football and what it brings, obviously it is coming to an end but I want to play on for as long as possible.”

Finally, Costel Pantilimon and Jordi Gomez will not feature in tonight's game. Pantilimon is still recovering from the knee knock he picked up at Arsenal in May, which is worrying, while Gomez fractured his kneecap in training two months ago. Dick explained: "Gomez is going the right way, but he's not working with us. He's still working separately with the physio. Pantilimon is doing that too, but he's going the right way. He can't play games at the moment, but he's training separately with the goalkeeping coach."

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Dick Talks...
We listen

Dick Advocaat reckons he was amazed when shit loads of florists started turning up at his family home after more than £1000 was raised to send his Mrs flowers, to help him persuade her that he should go back to Sunderland. "It's the first time in my life that the fans have sent some flowers to our house. That was something special," added Advocaat. "The family were not really happy for me to go on. Finally they agreed and then it was easy for me to say I was coming back. At a certain moment everyone was convinced that it was better for me to go on rather than sit at home."

He also admitted that we need four more players before the season starts. He added: "Three, maybe four. It is still very quiet on the transfer market, in England as well. It's strange."

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Almost Game Time...
Thank God

Dick Advocaat has been working the players hard over the past week and is now looking forward to our first pre season game at Darlington on Thursday. “We’ve had two sessions today [Monday], so we’ve had six [in all so far],” said Advocaat. "It’s looking really good. They’re looking really sharp already and with no extra kilos so that’s very positive. It’s a big difference. They know what I expect on the pitch. You can give them some more ideas about what you want and you have time to train and work on that. You can even try in a game something without thinking about the result. We have four and a half weeks still to go, so it’s great. The game on Thursday is more about getting 45 minutes in the legs, so most players will probably play just the 45. Some players, like Giaccherini, who didn’t play last season, might play the full 90 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Turkish side Besiktas are also sniffing around SAFC target Jeremain Lens, the winger played under Advocaat at PSV Eindhoven.

In other news, money grabber, Asamoah Gyan has left Emirati champions Al Ain and joined Chinese Super League team Shanghai SIPG. His weekly salary is now a reported £160,000. Guess he could have had an interesting career in Europe but he went for the money instead.

And finally, Sunderland AFC's fan village opposite ALS HQ, has been approved.

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A tale of two defenders...
MATTHEWS WANTS TO GO TO FRANCE

The news has calmed down today (hopefully the calm before the storm?) but new full-back Adam Matthews has revealed one of the reasons he moved to Wearside was to help his international career. The defender said: “The international thing was a major part of me moving. The league in Scotland isn’t great and I think the Welsh manager saw that. Hopefully, this move will help me improve my chances of getting into the Welsh team because they are doing really well at the minute. I just needed a new challenge. I have been at Celtic for four years and enjoyed every minute of it, but I spoke to my agent and it seemed to be a good move for me at this stage. I’m happy to move forward and playing in the English Premier League was a big factor in my decision. Sunderland are a massive club, there is no doubt about it.”

In other news, former academy prospect and Scunthorpe captain Cliff Byrne has joined as a youth coach. The 33 year old is looking forward to it: "I am now going back to where it all began as I take on my first official coaching role as professional development phase coach with Sunderland AFC. To say I am excited by this new chapter is an understatement - can't wait to get started."

Finally, after being backed in a corner over Ricky Alverez's complicated transfer deal, it looks like the same might happen with Santiago Vergini. Vergini's loan deal cost us £2million with a clause that if he made 20 appearances then we'd have to buy him, which he has, so we might be stuck with him too...

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Dicks Up For It...
Let's spend some cash

Dick Advocaat has made his first positive comment regarding the budget that Ellis Short has given him. “A couple of weeks ago, we had a very good meeting with the chairman and he’s willing to do something,” said Advocaat. "In that way, he’s so much involved in the club. He wants to do the best for this club. Hopefully we can do that and bring in the right players for the right price.”

Dick also commented on the players we've brought in to date. Firstly Sebastian Coates: “We did not expect that (last season) but from the moment we saw him training, he was improving every day and at a certain moment, we had to take a decision. Then he did really well and I think he can get even better. That’s a really good signing from our club, Lee (Congerton, sporting director) did a great job to bring him back to Sunderland for that price.”

And he had this to say about Adam Matthews' switch from Celtic Park: “He played many, many games for Celtic, also European games. (Now) he must know the game, understand the game the way I like to play it. But it’s good competition for Billy, who did really well from the moment I arrived.”

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Get on The Phone Congerton...
Action Please

Well we have our first pre season game against Darlo on Thursday, but we still wait, with baited breath, for some juicy signings. However, now we have strengthened the defence (albeit rather un-spectacularly) with full-back Adam Matthews and Sebastian Coates and we are also supposedly in talks with Zenit St Petersburg over the transfer of Belgian centre-half Nicolas Lombaert, Lee Congerton will now look to bolster our attack. West Ham's Stewart Downing, Dynamo Kiev forward Jeremain Lens and Everton's Aidan McGeady have all been linked, but QPR’s Junior Hoilett won't be coming to Wearisde, despite reports.

One attacking player we already have at SAFC is Charis Mavrias, who joined from Panathinaikos in 2013, but has made just six appearances since. He now reckons he's ready to show what he's made of; but he might just be keen to just stay away from the financial crisis in Greece. He said: “This is my third year in Sunderland and the second where I get to be substantially involved in pre-season from the outset. I think it’s time to get a chance to show I can count, otherwise if you don’t do this we will see what happens in the future. I need to get playing time under my feet and show what I can offer. Definitely my priority right now is Sunderland. But, like I said, if I don’t then we will see how things develop and either go abroad or return to Panathinaikos. I want to be somewhere where I will be wanted. I’m here to begin preparations (for the season) and depending on the decisions of the coach and the technical director, and how the situation will evolve. We will see how things are and how they move."

In other news, sadly it looks like Liam Bridcutt's move to Derby County is off and we are stuck with him for the time being.

There's also no change in the conflict between Sunderland and Inter Milan over Ricky Alvarez, it seems neither club want him and FIFA are set to step in to sort the mess. The Argentina international allegedly spent the season at Sunderland last year (I never noticed him did you?) He cost us £1.5m with a final payment of £7.5m if we avoided relegation, which we did. On paper it looks like we might have to keep him. Inter's sporting director Piero Ausilio said: “It’s very simple, there are no concerns on our part. We made an agreement, a transfer with Sunderland. For us, he is absolutely a Sunderland player. Sunderland stayed up, that was the only condition. Everything else is just speculation that I have read, but I’m not interested in that.”

And Inter coach Roberto Mancini said via the club’s official twitter page on Friday: “I think Alvarez is a Sunderland player. I understood that if they avoided relegation, the move would be permanent.”

Finally, here's some important information ahead of pre-season opener. Sunderland supporters attending Thursday evening’s game against Darlington should arrive early for the sell-out fixture. The Black Cats kick-off face the Quakers in a 7.45pm kick-off at Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland and fans are being advised of some important information ahead of the game.

TICKETS/ARRIVE EARLY
The game is a sell-out and tickets will not be available to purchase on the day. Fans with valid tickets are advised to arrive at the ground as early as possible. Approach roads and the surrounding areas are expected to be busy and supporters should allow additional time for their journey.

PARKING
Parking is very limited at Heritage Park and the surrounding areas. Spaces are available in Car Park B and Car Park C (behind the March Hare pub) on a first come, first served basis and coaches will be parked in Car Park C (behind KFC and the pub), which is a short walk from the turnstiles. Darlington Football Club and the police are asking supporters to arrive in plenty of time and park sensibly and within the law.

ACCESS TO THE STADIUM
Sunderland supporters have been allocated the full length of the standing area opposite the main stand, the seated area behind the goal and the standing area between the main stand and seated area behind the goal. Sunderland supporters can only enter the ground through the two turnstiles closest to the March Hare pub, which will be signposted SUNDERLAND AFC SUPPORTERS ONLY.
Turnstiles will be open from 6.30pm and there are food outlets available inside the ground in each of the segregated areas.

SECURITY
There will be no alcohol served pitchside anywhere in the stadium. Darlington thanks fans in advance for their understanding.

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Bridcutt could leave...
Transfer Pantomime

Greetings reader, good day to you, although I must question the quality of the day so far. As my eyelids stick together, a side-effect of last night's escapades, I start to become impatient with transfer news. It's all pantomime, and the majority of headlines are setting us up for battle with Newcastle fans by absurdly suggesting that every player they're after, we will hijack the bid for, and vice versa. It's stupid, and above all else untrue.

One rumour which may moisten a few lips though is that we are set to get rid of the sensational Liam Bridcutt, with Derby reportedly interested in the bemused midfielder. You could count the number of good games Bridcutt has had since joining on one hand, two fingers to be precise, although it is satisfying that one of those games was against the Mags, so probably counts for more than that. Either way, Bridcutt is still man-power and we'll need to make sure we replace him with a competent defensive midfielder, because we're still lacking in quality in the middle of the park.

I have a feeling we're going to make some signings next week, get them in before pre-season. Hope so anyway!

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matthews completes move...
exciting signing

Sunderland have completed the signing of 23 year old Welsh full back Adam Matthews from Celtic. The player comes highly rated from Hoops fans and is certainly looking to be a long termproject at the club, coming at a young age but still old enough to stake a solid place in the first team. Matthews is a good athlete and that's a start, our full backs have been notoriously injury prone or not full backs at all, it is a position we have often neglected and it's great that the club are finally sorting it out. I'm excited.

Head coach Dick Advocaat said: "We know we need quality players to improve competition for places in the side, so Adam is a welcome addition to our squad and we are very pleased to welcome him to Sunderland.”

Sporting director Lee Congerton added: “Adam is a player we have been tracking for some time. Even though he is only 23 he has a wealth of experience, and I am sure he will continue to improve under the leadership of Dick Advocaat.”

Meanwhile, Matthews reckons he can't wait to get stuck into the Mags. I like this lad already! “It’s probably the best league in the world so when I had a chance to come here I couldn’t really refuse it,” Matthews said. “Being at a massive club like this, I’m just looking forward to the opportunity and hopefully I can step up. Ever since I’ve been a little boy I’ve wanted to play in the Premier League All the big teams you look forward to playing but the Newcastle-Sunderland derby I’m quite looking forward to. I’ve heard a bit (about it). People say it’s similar to the Celtic-Rangers derby with the atmosphere and hostility so hopefully playing in those games will hold me in good stead if I do get the opportunity to play in this derby.”

Hartlepool manager Ronnie Moore has expressed his disappointment that Pools won't be playing Sunderland, Newcastle or Boro this pre-season, and I echo his sentiment! Love going down to Hartlepool, great ground with a pub in the away section, and it always seems to be lovely weather! Moore said; "I probably need to get out and have a chat with the managers of the big clubs around here. It is like ‘little Hartlepool’, we need to build the links and try and get some pre-season games here."

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New signing soon?...
More transfer craic

Well it is the morning after St. Lee’s Day and Cattermole could soon be joined at Sunderland by Celtic’s young Welsh right-back Adam Matthews. The two clubs have agreed a fee believed to be around £1.5million and personal terms are being discussed.

Talking of transfers, we have been heavily linked with defender Nicolas Lombaerts, who plays for Dick Advocaat’s former club Zenit St Petersburg and the boss worked with him when managing the Belgium national team.

Elsewhere, former striker Don Goodman has backed Jermain Defoe to be a hit in his first full season: “Everybody wants goals, but goals cost an awful lot of money. Jermain Defoe having a full pre-season under his belt will be massive, and hopefully he will come back firing on all cylinders. If he does, I don’t think there is another better goal-scorer in the Premier League than him. It probably took something extremely special to tempt him out of his already-arranged retirement, but Sunderland is a special club.”

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LEE CATTERMOLE...
By Eve Sayers

For outsiders it may be difficult to see why Sunderland fans are so delighted about Lee Cattermole signing a contract extension but this could be a huge moment in our transfer window.

Catts only had one year left on his deal so getting him to sign an extension was only going to be a top priority this summer. And thankfully for us, Short, Congerton and Advocaat have managed to tie the anchorman down up until 2021.

Admittedly, Cattermole’s Sunderland career got off to a mixed start. Although it was Bruce who signed him, Cattermole perhaps lacked the guidance he needed under him. He picked up the man of the match award on the opening day in a 1-0 win away to Bolton Wanderers. His first season was cut short due to injury and the odd suspension but he did show a glimmer or two of what he could do.

The Teessider was given the arm band for the 2010/11 season. Despite this, the his second season was also difficult, plagued by further injuries and suspension. He received a red card on the opening day at home to Birmingham and then another on his return from suspension away to Wigan. It was hard to take for him, Bruce and Sunderland fans alike. However, the midfielder made amends with memorable performances in a 3-0 victory away to Chelsea and 1-0 home win against West Ham.

The 11/12 season saw a change in management as Martin O’Neill replaced Steve Bruce. As Cattermole’s unfair reputation can often get ahead of him, there was always the worry that a new manager wouldn’t take to him. That couldn’t have been more wrong. Catts produced his best performance yet for the club in the famous 1-0 win at home to City where Jiiii scored a late, late winner. After the game O’Neill put his arm around Catts and told him he had a heart like a lion. His tackle on Cheick Tiote 30 seconds into the Tyne-Wear Derby sums him up, that set the tone of the game.

It was sad to see Cattermole have the captaincy taken away from him in favour of John O’Shea but I’m hopeful that he’ll get it back one day. Di Canio really did not take to Cattermole at all, maybe it was a clash of fiery personalities. Let’s all just take a minute to appreciate the fact that Catts is still at the club as he admitted he was miserable at the club under Paolo’s reign and that he would’ve been happy to sign for Hartlepool.

And then, then we nearly lost him to Stoke. I firmly believe that if he had let Cattermole go to Stoke we wouldn’t be in the Premier League right now.  Luckily, Poyet realised what a gem Cattermole is and as a result, the midfielder developed into a hell of a player.

Despite nearly selling him to Stoke, Poyet was a massive fan of Cattermole. He stated: “‘In Uruguay, (there is) no doubt he would be picked. We like that sort of player. If I was a national team manager I would definitely pick him because I like his character and the way he plays the game.” It would be great to see Cattermole in an England shirt, he plays the defensive midfielder role to perfection with his accurate, long passing and well-executed tackles.
The man truly is a thing of beauty. His opening day screamer against West Brom. His early reducer in our late 1-0 victory away to the Mags was beautiful, putting in a tackle like that inside the opening ten seconds show them they knew we meant business. He doesn’t get half the recognition he deserves.

Although his reputation amongst referees and fans of other teams is unfair, it’s nice to see Cattermole is rated by other professionals, Yaya Toure rated him among his toughest ever opponents. And when a manager with a wealth of experience such as Dick Advocaat’s, you know you’ve got a good player.

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coATES SIGNS on...
Finally a signing and maybe another?

So lightning does strike twice as I am sure you have all seen by now, we have confirmed the signing of Seb Coates, who returns for a very tidy fee of  £2million. Here is the reaction starting with the big Uruguayan: “The manager gave me confidence last year when he came in [to the club]. For me, it was very important to play and be involved in the team. The confidence he gives to the players and the team and the supporters is very important. It was very important and he trusts in the team. I’m really happy to be here. I will try to improve on last season and hopefully the team will too. Hopefully we’ll continue how we played how we finished. For me, I played really well at the end of last season and the team did as well, so I hope we can be good this year. I’m fit, so I’m hoping to get more games. I will give my best in every training session to stay at my best for the games.”

Sporting director Lee Congerton is pleased with the business too: “Sebastian was an important part of the team under Dick last season and we are delighted that he has joined us on a permanent basis. He has Barclays Premier League experience, which is important, and, after spending last season on loan with us, he will be able to settle into the team very quickly.”

Elsewhere, it looks like Everton are also keen on Leeds right-back Sam Byram. There is also strong speculation linking us with a loan move for Chelsea’s young Dutchman Marko van Ginkel.

Meanwhile, Dick Advocaat has announced his backroom staff for the 2015/16 season. His assistant head coach will be Zeljko Petrovic and the first team coach will be former SAFC player, captain and assistant manager, Paul Bracewell. Adrian Tucker will be the keeper coach. However, Bert van Lingen, who worked alongside Advocaat for Rangers, Holland, Zenit St Petersburg, Belgium, Russia and at SAFC last season, won't be returning to Sunderland, which is not good news.

Lee Cattermole has signed a new deal, meaning he will continue destroying opposition midfielders and slaying Mags until 2021 at least. If he sees out the deal it will mean he would have been at the club for 12 years. Dick Advocaat is delighted with the news, make him captain and give him a knighthood, man: “Lee is the controller of the side. He is a motivator, a leader and central to the success of our team. To know that he will be with us for many years to come is very important to the club.”

Sporting director Lee Congerton echoes the Dutchman’s thoughts: “Lee is a hugely important part of our team, both on and off the field. He has ten years of experience playing in the Premier League, which is incredible when you consider he is still only 27 years old, and we are delighted that he has committed his long-term future to Sunderland.”

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Hot, hot, hot!...
New scholars with the potential to burn

Here is today’s news, which really you should be reading from Roker beach on a day like this but some of us have to work (sigh). Rumours are heating up on our interest in Holland’s Jeremain Lens.

Elsewhere, it is mainly academy news with Gatesheed’s youth coach Paul Bryson joining us in a similar capacity. And congratulations to our new scholars – who will be the next Jordan Henderson out of this lot? - Michael Woud, Brandon Taylor, Alexander Storey, Cameron McCullouch, Joshua Maja, Oscar Krusnell, Owen Gamble, Elliot Embleton, Adam Bale, Joel Asoro and Christopher Allan.

Jordan Blinco, Michael Ledger, James Talbot, Ethan Robson, Rees Greenwoo and George Brady have been promoted to the development squad.

Director of football Lee Congerton reckons bringing through youngsters is important for the current regime: "Bringing through quality, home-grown players is very important to us. We have brought in youngsters from further afield, including New Zealand and Sweden, but recruiting and developing players from within the North East region is key for us. The next couple of years will be massively important to these young players as they aim to progress to the first team and we wish them the very best of luck.”

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Darren Bent: How To Disappear Completely...
By Chris thompson

This article sympathises the monstrosity that is Steve Bruce, for before he became a figure of ridicule on Wearside for his fat head, his incessant excuse making and his resemblance to a real life Simpsons character, he did in fact lead Sunderland to their highest placed finish since the Reid era. Not only that but in his time at the club we harboured a talent pool including Boudewijn Zenden, Jordan Henderson, Danny Welbeck, Asamoah Gyan, Sully Muntari and of course 'The Truth' Darren Bent. Remember that? 'The Truth'. Honestly, how WWE is that? Nob head.

Bent joined the club after shooting on Daniel Levy in one of the early cases of a footballer expressing his discontent on Twitter. Can't remember if he was fined by the FA, I don't think those sanctions were in place then! Either way his desire to join SAFC offered him an instant spark with fans, and he used that spark to set the house a'leet. He wouldn't stop scoring and it was silly, really silly. 24 goals in the league that season. For perspective; Connor Wickham, Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe scored 15 goals between them last season. That's in all competitions. Aye.

Bruce took advantage of Bent's eye for goal and built the team around the hitman, putting his arm around the wounded, discarded striker, nursing him back to health and seeing him fly to the top of the world. With the success, the relationship with fans grew. Beach balls, breaking our necks to get him in the England team. The joy when he finally scored for England! A Sunderland player scoring for England. The new Kevin Phillips.

Then after a poor start to the season and rumours of discontent, probably stemming from that 5-1 which apparently tore the dressing room open but we'd since recovered from, he fucked off. He left Bruce like a Radiohead song. High and Dry. Karma Police? Let Down, certainly. Bent had pulled a screwjob on Bruce, turned heel and joined Aston Villa, which is essentially an evil corporation churning out shit footballers which gain England call ups due to geographical convenience.

I propose that if Steve Bruce had been allowed to execute his plan at Sunderland without this hindrance then we would have taken the next step as a club and could have potentially been a team finishing in the top half of the table by now. This is a bold statement so feel free to take a shot at it.

It's purely speculation of course, he suffered several distinctive failures in his time at Sunderland, memorable instances include playing no strikers against a lower league team at home in the cup, his derby arse drops and of course his last transfer window which can be heavily criticised for the moving on of Henderson without a superstar replacement. But let's give credit where it's due, Seb Larsson was mouth-watering last season and would have proved useful in a long term plan, and if you remember correctly Craig Gardner did very well in the goalscoring department that season, before he started getting shoved in at right back. It wasn't a terrible window until it all came undone.

Obviously there's no way of knowing how Bruce would have done if Bent stayed, but I think for once Brucey deserves a bit of credit before we go back to celebrating his failures. He's a poorly burnt out shell of a professional now. An Airbag, a Paranoid Android and it's all Darren Bent's fault. I'm sure it brings Bruce buckets of pleasure that Bent ruined his career by moving, because it certainly floats my boat. Where even is Bent now? I don't know. But I hope he knows that I blame him for everything and he is not welcome on ALS coaches.

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ALS BLOG...
By Peter Whalen

Do Sunderland fans have every right to be optimistic? Season after season our wonderful club find themselves in the same boat. Managers have come and gone in recent years and it has never really worked out. Even the most unforgettable season with Gus led to him being dismissed. Dick Advocaat is without doubt a man who can change our fortunes, and hopefully we can look up the table rather than the teams below us breathing down our necks.

If you were to ask a Sunderland fan on what their hopes were for the upcoming campaign, they would reply with “beat Newcastle”. Sure, it’s always great to get one over on your rivals or should I say five, but with a club of our size is that enough?

A new manager brings fresh ideas, new philosophies, a new crop of players and brings that confidence the old boss might have lacked. Like many football fans I always get optimistic when a new manager comes in because you get that feeling that this time it will work out.

Keane, Bruce, O’Neil, Di Canio, Poyet have all tried to add consistency to the Sunderland ranks but a relegation scrap is always the challenge that seems to present itself with single figure games remaining.

The General- Dick Advocaat is the latest manager to write his name into Wearside folklore, after his side produced a heroic performance at Arsenal to ensure Premier League football next season.  Although the Dutchman has won trophies throughout his career, he couldn’t hide his emotion after the final whistle sounded at the Emirates stadium.

That night however is in the past and the future is what the club must look towards. Numerous reports in the media have suggested that Advocaat has been promised a healthy transfer budget to bring players to the Stadium of Light. £50million was the reported figure and if this turns out to be true then we can all be positive ahead of next season, right?

Sadly, that isn’t the case, as we all know. SAFC have been through too many managers for us fans to think that this season is going to be any different. Although with Dick at the helm I do think we can look towards the season with a bit more positivity rather than stamping a negative effect on things even before a ball is kicked.

I could talk all day about what positions need strengthening or what players we need to be looking at. Players such as Emanuele Giaccherini and Jack Rodwell are names that I’m expecting big things from; you aren’t worth all that money for the sake of it. These two players need to deliver and get up to the heights that we all know they can deliver to.

Dick will know what players he would like to see in a red and white shirt and I have every faith in him that whatever name is printed on the back of that shirt, will improve the side.

At the beginning of this article it stated- do Sunderland fans have every right to be optimistic. Every Sunderland fan will have their own opinion on what they think will happen in the near future, and that is the beauty of football, it divides opinion. But our general is a winner; he won’t put up with any shite and will do whatever is necessary to ensure the club has a bright future.

If you are optimistic don’t get to carried away as we all know Sunderland have a tendency to let you down especially after a bloody derby. But if you are dreading what lies ahead, DON’T. You never know this could be our season to do something special.

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it's a bit warm today...
Pre-season craic

Not long before the lads are back in training which means the season is growing ever closer. Danny Graham has not left the gym as I’m sure some of you have seen, amazing attitude and an amazing turnaround from someone who looked like he would never play for the club again. Some of the players who were on international duty in June (John O’Shea, Seb Larsson, Steven Fletcher and Costel Pantilimon) have been allowed an extra week off - could you imagine going into work and saying ‘you know I did some overtime three weeks ago, can I have next week off please? ‘

On other news, Charlton Athletic have signed El-Hadji Ba – so another Di Fanti signing has gone which can only be a good thing but all the best to the young lad.

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tRIP TO GERMANY...
BY ADAM DELICATE

The announcement that we would be playing Hannover 96 on August 1 was greeted with some excitement by you lot, and why not? After all a weekend away in Germany is always good.

I have been to Germany a lot but only ever passed through Lower Saxony but it is not the first time ALS has had contact with Hannover. We stopped at a lorry park just outside the city on our way to Denmark to watch the lads play FC Midtjylland during that horrible Di Canio/Di Fanti summer. The only thing I remember about that lorry park was the fact that it had the smelliest toilets I have ever had the misfortune of coming across.

Ironically, we also played H96 during a pre-season under Bruce – and lost which is less of a surprise – although this was played at a different venue.

Anyway, having researched it and asking a friend who supports Hannover 96 (yes, I have very random acquaintances), the city seems to be a nice place. The stadium is a ‘20-30’ minute walk from the central station and there is an artificial lake near the ground called the Machsee – providing a nice scenic area where you can have a stein or two.

Like with any city, I’m sure there will be loads of places to eat and, most importantly, drink during your time there. Being slap-bang in the middle of Germany, Hannover’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station) has excellent links to the more well-known parts of Germany. You won’t have to spend any longer than two and a half hours on a train to Berlin, Hamburg or the popular North Rhine-Westphalia region in the North West (highly recommended).

As for the ground itself, the HDI Arena was upgraded for the 2006 World Cup and looks pretty impressive. Capacity lies at just under 50,000 with a standing area too. The club itself narrowly survived relegation in the Bundesliga this season. Players to watch out for are German international goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler and Charlie Benschop, a big lump of a forward – think Altidore but with the ability to score.

ALS is not doing any away travel for this one but hopefully this would have given you a guide and might tempt you into going to support the lads. There are no local flights but London Heathrow does a service to Hannover and the airport is just a short car or train journey to the city centre.

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QUOTES!...
Not a signing but it's a start!

We’ve got a treat for you to start the week; some quotes. Some genuine quotes, not loose speculation about a Dutch import or a championship player just good old quotes.

First up is Jermain Defoe who cannot wait to begin working with Dick Advocaat again: “Dick came out and said he decided to go for family reasons, but after that he has sat down and thought about it. He believes he can still do a good job. I was delighted because he is a good man and a good manager. I think we can do well this year because training was always sharp with Dick. He got off to a good start. He came into the changing rooms and from day one he wanted us to be sharper in training and then sharp in games. He didn’t care who you were, everyone was regarded the same. When a manager comes in and keeps you on your toes and you respect his experience you get better performances. Training went up a notch. Everyone was focused last season and I think if we start this season strongly we can do well.”

On his training methods: "He just said from day one that all he wants is for the players to be sharp every day in training, apply yourselves and do the same in the game. If you don't want to do that in training, then you won't play, it's as simple as that. He doesn't care who you are. When a new manager comes in, it keeps you on your toes and with someone like Dick, who has been in the game so many years, you respect someone like that."

Speaking of which the lads start pre-season training on Thursday, although it is mainly testing, seeing where the players are at and if John O'Shea has actually got any slower.

On his personal level and targets: “During the off-season I always keep myself fit. I try not to eat too much and get the rest - the season is so long - but after a couple of weeks I'm ready to go back, ready to train. Hopefully we'll have a good pre-season and we can start the season really strong. People say you should always aim for 20 goals in a season and if I'm scoring goals it's only good for the club and the team."

In other news, Julio Arca has been talking about you lot, the fans: “I know how much they love football, how passionate they are. They want players to work hard and care about the club, and I did that. I have nothing bad to say, every game was an adventure. Fantastic. When the Stadium of Light is full, it scares teams. When the fans are really on top of their game, I think teams can be afraid. The connection I’ve had with the fans has been great. Even now when I come to the ground it is still fantastic and you can’t ask for more than that.”

On his debut against West Ham: “For me it was my cup final. I was really nervous but after 20 minutes I managed to get that goal and started to feel comfortable. That day will stick in my mind for the rest of my life.”

Finally, it appears Seb Coates deal will be announced very soon although I am sure this has been the case for the last month!

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rumours...
fleetwood mac and leroy fer

I really do apologise for the lack of solid news over the last few days, I might just start inventing it. 'Sunderland submit £5m bid for Kanye West, Kanye will be a useful addition to the squad as we will finally have a player who has an even bigger ego than Connor Wickham, except Kanye's is actually justified.

Sunderland have again been linked with QPR midfielder Leroy Fer. Fer made the switch to the Rs last summer after being relegated with Norwich, he respected tradition this year by getting relegated with QPR as well. People share strong opinions about signing relegated players, but we definitely need centre midfielders in giving how weak that area was last season, we can't rely on Seb being 10/10 every game and Cattermole staying fit/not suspended. You never know though, Rodwell may come into his own this campaign, doubt it like.

Rumoured outgoings now and as reported about a month ago, a few teams are sniffing around Santiago Vergini including Boca Juniors, and you can only assume with Poyet out of the picture and Advocaat seemingly not fancying the South American enigma, he may actually fancy a move back to his home land.

Finally it is being reported that we have made an £8 million bid to land Dynamo Kiev’s 27-year-old striker, Jeremain Lens. The Dutch hitman could fill Steven Fletcher's spot at the club, assuming the Jock sicknote is leaving. It would be quite funny having Jeremain and Jermain up front. Ha'way Sunderland, sign him just for the comedy value.

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Transfer news...
coates deal complete?

Merry weekend. Hope you're all taking advantage of the women's football, there's been some cracking games. I also caught the score of England's match in the Cerebral Palsy World Cup and noticed they were winning 10-0 against the USA in the 50th minute. Mad.

It is being reported that the deal for Sebastian Coates is all but complete, with several reputable Liverpool bloggers claiming that we will land Coates for £4m. Not a bad price for a young defender, but it makes you wonder why he's being allowed to leave for that low of an amount. Maybe just don't read into it! We still need another centre half like.

We're also being strongly linked with Matt Phillips now, the QPR winger will be looking to move on from that shit-heap of a football club following their relegation back to the Championship. We could use a winger, what with Will Buckley being extremely suspect and the future of Adam Johnson being very unclear.

Finally, we're still after Stewart Downing, apparently. Reports that the winger would prefer a move back to Boro though are very worrying, and baffling at the same time. Downing is currently down at West Ham in the big smoke, well perhaps he fancies a move back to the big smog. Only explanation.

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USA/CANADA GUIDE...
by EVE SAYERS

In recent years we have seen the lads to travel to Portugal, Seoul and Hong Kong for pre-season and now it’s America and Canada, alright for some eh?

Advocaat and his squad will travel across the North Atlantic to face Sacramento Republic, Club de Futbol Pachua and Toronto FC.

Sacramento Republic

The game against Sacramento Republic will take place on the 14th of July at the new Bonney Field Stadium, California. The club was founded in 2012 and play their trade in the United Soccer League. Republic currently head the Western Conference with 28 points. The club shares an affiliation with MLS team San Jose Earthquakes.

Club de Futbol Pachua

Bonney Field will also host the game against Club de Futbol Pachua. The South American club finished 7th last season, in the Liga MX, the top divison in Mexico. The League is ranked 13th worldwide. The club were founded in 1901 and became the first Mexican club to reach 100 years of existence. Pachua are managed by former Valenica and Atletico Madrid player Diego Alonso.

Toronto FC

For the last leg of the tour, the lads face a trip to Toronto where Jermain Defoe and Jozy Altidore will face their old clubs. Is their anything more certain than Jozy scoring against us? I doubt it. The former Sunderland striker has six goals in 11 matches for the MLS club, which is pretty impressive if you compare that to his one league goal for us.

Derby hero Defoe scored 11 goals in 19 apperances whilst at Toronto. That’s not as surprising however as the man will score goals wherever. The game will arguably for tricky than the two prior fixtures as the Canadian club currently sit 4th in the Eastern Conference of the MLS.

It would be nice if we had a few new players to give a run out to for the tour. There are plenty names being linked but it seems frustratingly quiet in terms of moving for players. Although there is over two months of the transfer window to go and we all know Sunderland never do thing the easy way.

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Celebrate it's friday!...
More defenders linked

It’s finally Friday, as we prepare for the weekend, the speculation seems to be winding down as we reach the end of the week.

Our interest in Stewart Downing has apparently increased, while the Seb Coates is imminent after Uruguay’s exit from the Copa America, according to reports.

According to the Chronicle, we are also interested in Derby captain Richard Keogh. The 28-year-old was named in the Championship team of the year. This may be slightly impressive but being heavily-linked with Virgil van Dijk and getting Keogh instead is a bit like being promised steak for tea but getting a ham sandwich instead.

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This is getting a bit boring...
Jmc is a tool

Another foreign import linked this morning, this time it is Lazio’s Argentine midfielder Cristian Ledesma. Can we just sign somebody please? Even if it’s just a freebie from non-league as I’m sick of the speculation now.

Elsewhere, James McCLean reckons West Brom are the biggest club he has signed for, which is funny as he probably could not spell ‘big club’ and it is obviously wrong too.

And in other news, Jozy Altidore scored a great goal as his side, Toronto, beat Montreal 3-1 in the Canadian derby. I honestly reckon he must have a crap identical twin who fancied playing football for a couple of years while he went to Panama for a long sabbatical.

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We're off to germany...
another day, another rumour

Just another day in the monotonous cycle that is June without football. So far today, the news seems to be yet more transfer speculation. Georginio Wijnaldum (and other Dutch players) continues to be linked with a move to the North East, as does striker Moussa Sow of Fenerbahce.

A new name being linked is Cagliari defender Davide Astori after Roma opted not to make his loan switch permanent. The centre-back made 30 appearances for Roma last year so he can’t be that bad but it does seem very loose speculation at the moment.

In terms of club news, the board has announced a fanzone will be opened next season, with food, local bands and a big TV showing all things SAFC will provide the entertainment. It will be based in the South East corner and seems a canny idea to me.

The other bit of news is that our last friendly will be away to Hannover 96 on 1st August.

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Going double dutch...
and more transfer craic

So another day where the rumour mill continues to churn out a lot of possible transfers, some superficial, others with perhaps a bit more credit. So far today, we have been linked with the Dutch pair PSV Eindhoven captain Georginio Wijnaldum and Ron Vlaar - the latter being a lot less exciting than the former, who was PSV’s player of the year ahead of the likes of Man United’s new signing Memphis Depay. 

In other news, young Liverpool defender Tiago Ilori has apparently given us the cold shoulder which doesn’t really bother me as if Emre Can is preferred over him then he cannot be that good!

Finally, Liam Bridcutt has been heavily linked with a r eunion with Paul Clement at Derby – probably best for both sides if true.

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stewart downing, andros townsend...
more transfer links

Nothing but a bit of transfer news this morning, and Sunderland have been linked to former loanee Stewart Downing as new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic looking to make large changes at the London club. The 30 year old winger somehow managed to get himself on 80 grand a week at West Ham, so if we had any chance of signing him we would need to either reduce his wage significantly or abandon our plans to ever replace those godawful pink seats.

Downing isn't the only wide player we've been linked to of course, with Spurs' Andros Townsend also reportedly a target for Dick Advocaat. Townsend is certainly an opinion divider, but the 23 year old will be after more regular first team football than he is allowed at Spurs, and discounting Adam Johnson, Sunderland don't have a fit, effective attacking wide player at the club, so Townsend might not be a bad suggestion.

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O'Shea: "We should be doing better"...
transfer merry go round

Happy Fathers Day to all the miserable Sunderland dads out there, and also a happy Fathers Day to all the Sunderland mams who have to put up with the miserable Sunderland dads!

John O'Shea has been speaking about the situation at Sunderland and how we can improve, admitting that we should really be doing better than we are: "I'm sure the owner and the people on the board would love a season where it is really enjoyable. Like when we got to the League Cup Final in 2014 and there was a great buzz around the place. But last season we struggled and if you look at the stats – the number of goals we scored, the amount of games we drew – we can consider ourselves lucky not to have been relegated. The club are really looking forward to building things because when you look at it – the size of the club, the people who support us, the fans who travel to away games – this is a big club. We should be higher up the table. We would like a season where it is seen that we are building."

Movement elsewhere in the window may just set things off for Sunderland. Liverpool have signed Charlton defender Joe Gomez which may just force Seb Coates out of their club and into ours. Coates played his best football under Advocaat but it remains to be seen whether he can cut it at this level after having an otherwise terrible season. We're also still looking at Virgil van Dijk, but that's been going on for 2 years now, not to mention a bid reportedly being accepted for Sam Byram and a loan agreed for Carl Jenkinson. It looks like we're doing all the right things, we just haven't actually signed anyone yet!

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ALS BLOG...
By eve sayers

Have you ever played the game of who’s the worst player you’ve ever seen play for Sunderland? It can go on for hours, days and even weeks.

I can’t help but think that the Roberto De Fanti transfer window has made that game all the more harder. Who even was De Fanti? That transfer window was bizarre, and it has given me trust issues. We trusted De Fanti, Di Canio and Valentino Angeloni to bring a new era to the club. But it wasn’t the era we had expected.

Modibo Diakite, Valetine Roberge, Ondrej Celustka, El-Hadji Ba, David Moberg Karlsson, Cabral and the many others we all had high hopes for. I had confidence that they were all decent players and well the appearances the players made for the club and the fact they are no longer here speaks for itself. Now, the whole Director of Football idea makes me feel a little uneasy. But despite the previous 150 words, why focus on the negatives? Why not think of the best players we’ve ever seen play for Sunderland?

Well, here’s five of the best summer signings we’ve made since our promotion to the Premier League.

1. Ki Sung-yeung. Okay so he maybe he was from the Di Fanti era but what a gem Ki was. It was no surprise to see him named as the Swansea Supporter’s Player of the Year this season. Ki enjoyed an excellent season with Swansea last year and it was disappointing that we couldn’t sign him on a permanent deal. The South Korean was pivotal on our road to Wembley, scoring against Chelsea in the quarters and putting away a penalty against United in the semis. His dedication to the cause was admiral too as he played for several months despite having tendonitis in his knee.

2. Lee Barry Cattermole. What a guy. The start to his Sunderland career may have been plagued by injuries and reckless sending offs but in the past two years, he has matured remarkably. Although it was Bruce who brought Catts to the club, he wasn’t perhaps the best mentor for Lee and Di Canio just didn’t take to him. However, Gus Poyet saw differently. Cattermole improved heaps and bounds under the Uruguayan and as a result, he picked up the North East Writers’ Player of the Year. On Cattermole, Poyet said: “‘In Uruguay, (there is) no doubt he would be picked. We like that sort of player. If I was a national team manager I would definitely pick him because I like his character and the way he plays the game.” Lee doesn’t get the recognition he deserves but his challenges are now timed to perfection (most of the time), his long passes are truly desirable and whenever he scores for us, it’s always a beauty. Sign a new contract Lee, please.

3. Darren Bent. I hate him for what he did to us, but what could’ve been for Sunderland and Darren Bent. It’s no surprise that Bent hasn’t been successful since he jumped ship. No-one will worship him like Sunderland fans did. 32 goals in 58 games, we’ve missed a player like him since he left. He’s not exactly a gifted player in terms of technical ability and so on but he was excellent at scoring goals for us, simple tap ins may seem simple but try telling that to Jozy Altidore. Bent’s transfer request wouldn’t have hurt as much if we didn’t ‘salvage’ his career and he didn’t feed us all the garbage about Sunderland being the club for him. We were nothing more than a convenience for him but cheers for the £24million Villa.

4. Seb Larsson. A beautiful man and a beautiful footballer. Does he ever stop running? I bet he’s running about somewhere right now. For a free transfer, we got an absolute bargain. Like Cattermole, Larsson works his socks off and gives 110% every game and his passing is underrated by many of our fans. He gets his fair share of assists and his set-pieces are a thing of Swedish beauty. Seb had a brilliant campaign last season and he thoroughly deserved Player of the Year.

5. Adam Johnson. Let’s just forget his court case for a few minutes, innocent till proven guilty and all that. I was absolutely buzzing when we managed to sign Adam Johnson, he’s a great winger who can get past players but often gets a lot of harsh criticism from our fans at times. He contributes a decent amount of assists as well as goals. And best of all, he loves a goal against the Mags. His last minute winner against them in December will stay with me forever. Plus, he stated that the best thing about winning on Derby Day was seeing Geordies fume.

Now, let’s have a decent transfer window and sign the four or five quality players we need rather than buying nine or ten cheap mediocre players.

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Wake me up when august comes...
transfer speculation is boring

Behold yet another weekend without club football. I think the novelty is starting to wear off now and I find myself wandering the streets of Sunderland trying to find some form of competitive sport. Egg throwing, flossy wearing, baby making. None of them are as satisfying as football though, except perhaps baby making, but I never get to play.

Misfiring striker Steven Fletcher could be off to Celtic in a thoroughly predictable transfer, but the player's wages are a stumbling blog for the Scottish giants. Fletcher has grown fond of his lavish lifestyle which includes donuts and Irn Bru, and likely would not be willing to take a pay cut to move North. Having said that, we probably shouldn't flog Fletch until we bring another striker in, the last thing we need to do is make ourselves even thinner up top, although Fletcher would know a few things about being thin up top, given his partially baldy napper.

Other than that, sorry to disappoint but there isn't really much else going on! We're still after Jenkinson and Byram, the seats are still pink and we still shouldn't have fielded that weakened team against Hull.

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Friday I'm In Love with You...
But Still sod all happening

Still sod all happening folks, however, word has is that Dick Advocaat will give youngsters such as Duncan Watmore; Liam Agnew, George Honeyman and Mikael Mandron the chance to prove themselves during the pre season.

This is in sharp contrast to Big Dick's attitude towards the end of last season when he felt that it was best to stick with experienced pros to get us over the line in terms of Premier League safety.

It's also quite a nice time for this story to be running, since we've signed no one at all so far and everyone knows we desperately need to strengthen the squad and clear as much dead wood as possible.

In other news, the man in charge of evil, Steve McClaren, has missed out on both Bolo Zenden and Phil Neville as potential assistant managers. Apparently, Bolo still loves the lads and wouldn't dirty his hands, whereas Neville simply can't be arsed to work for such a despicable football club.

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I'm Bored...
I'm the Chairman of The Board

June is always an annoying month in SAFC's calendar. First of all there is no football at all, not even a pointless pre season game, where you can have a catch up with your footy makes over a few beers in the sunshine. But more so, everyone in football holidays in June and player's deals which are coming to an end don't run out till June 30, so very little happens. Therefore journalists just make up stories to fill their pages and fans get annoyed.

For instance, on Tuesday Carl Jenkinson had supposedly joined us, on loan, from Arsenal for £2m. Then on Wednesday the story had developed into him staying in London and going to West Ham. Now today, he's in no hurry to decide his future! All bollocks, no doubt.

In other news, we are still playing cat and mouse with Celtic over their centre half, Virgil van Dijk. We are trying to tempt them by throwing in Steven Fletcher as a makeweight, but his disgusting £60,000-a-week wages are proving a problem for everyone concerned, except the striker himself, of course!

It seems that our attempts to get rid of Valentin Roberge are also being hampered by his massive wage packet. The very average centre half, who was brought in during PDC/di Fanti's summer of madness, was on loan at Reims last season, but only played 11 times. He was also recently seen down Goals Soccer Centre on Durham Road being skinned by some fat blokes. With Charis Mavrias, El Hadji-Ba and Roberge still on the books we really need to clear some deadwood over the summer and stop buying crap players who will never make it at SAFC. If you disagree, remember we also brought in Modibo Diakite, Cabral, David Moberg Karlsson and Jozy Altidore that summer!

Finally, Emanuele Giaccherini is staying at Sunderland, according to the player's agent. let's hope he plays more of a part next season. His agent Furio Valcareggi said: “Advocaat as a coach is a very good one, a holy man of football and he is a genius to Giaccherini. I’m sure you will do very well next season Emanuele’ and his (Giaccherini’s) goal is to go to the European Championships (next summer). He will stay at Sunderland 100 per cent, although there was some interest last summer. There’s a lot of confidence for next season and Giaccherini does not want to leave. Giaccherini was very pleased with his return after he only played 20 minutes of the last six months of the season, when he came on at Chelsea when the team was already safe.”

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Time To Get The Transfer Party Started
By Barry Dixon

Since Big Dick’s dramatic U-Turn, which delighted us all, many thought that the transfer wheels would be in motion pretty much instantly. Before Dick left at the end of the season there was apparently talks held with Ellis Short with regards to transfers. All we know is that Dick said that we needed at least 5-6 quality players brought in for us to start moving forward. Being a manager of his vast knowledge and experience I would have thought he would have had a few players in mind of who he would like to bring in.

Weeks have now passed since the U-turn and as of yet little has happened other than a constant trickle of rumours. We’ve had the rumours that Coates will be brought in on a permanent deal for around £4 million. A weekly wage of around £90k per week was reportedly offered to Micah Richards but he decided to take around £65K and return to the area he was born (which is nice to see I suppose in a world of Bents). Bids ranging from £3.5 million to £8.5 million have been rumoured for Leeds United’s rising star, full back Sam Byram. Another Full back, Arsenals Carl Jenkinson, who spent last season on loan at West Ham is reportedly on the verge of going to either us or West Ham  on loan for next season, for a fee of around £1.5 million. The other ongoing story is Celtic defender Van Dijk. He will cost anything between £5million and the entire contents of the Bank of England plus Steven Fletcher depending on which reports you read.

But what about the rest of the side? We’ve heard very little if anything about any other players or positions they are looking at. That’s not to say there haven’t been the normal daily doses of media transfer rubbish. Since Dick made his comeback (thanks again Mrs A) we have been linked with pretty much every player playing in the Dutch Eredivisie. Sometimes no news can be good news and the club is keeping its cards close to its chest until any deal is pretty much finalised.

But we need to bring players in sooner rather than later. The fixtures were released today which although it fills us with excitement it also reminds us that the season isn’t too far away and ideally we need to get a move on in the market.

Sooner rather than later we must start looking at other areas on the pitch. A pacey winger, a creative midfielder, another striker if Fletcher goes and Dick decides to offload either Graham or Wickham. Possibly a back up for Catts too if Dick decides Bridcutt is not cut out for this league. All far easier said than done though.

Quality over quantity is the key to this season and quality is often hard to come by, especially for a team like Sunderland who unfortunately are not blessed with multi millions to splash out on one player. We aren’t also, however it much it may pain us to admit, an attractive proposition for many players, especially those coming from abroad who will look at last season's table, look at a map and realise we are nowhere near London or Manchester. Yes we have the world's best fans and the fantastic stadium etc but sometimes that isn’t enough for some. Therefore Dick, Lee and Ellis must be quite savvy in their approach to transfers to get it right. And right we must get it as let's face it we cannot splash the cash only for it to end up with us being in the same position as last season and the season before that.

Get it right and it could put us into a stronger position going into next summer's transfer window and let's not forget we may be looking for a new manager then too.

I firmly believe that we are in good hands and very soon Dick will spring into action and sail the good ship Sunderland into calmer waters next season and give our livers and hearts a bit of rest come the end of 2015/16.

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Happy Fixtures Day...
Leicester Away first up

Well the fixtures are out and it feels like this boring summer of no footy is finally starting to hot up. We start the season with a trip to Leicester on August 8 and then host Norwich on August 15 and Swansea on August 22 and finish off the opening month with a trip to Aston Villa. Not the hardest start to the season and one which gives us the opportunity to get some points on the board early doors

We'll be picking up our usual six points against Newcastle on 24th October at the SOL and on Saturday 19th March 2016 at SJP. Xmas brings a Boxing Day trip to Manchester City and the season will draw to a close on Sunday 15th May 2016 when we play Watford at Vicarage Road. Fixtures in full click here

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Advocaat Looking For A Loan?
by Graeme Atkinson

According to press reports a £1.5mil deal is in place for us to sign Arsenal fullback Carl Jenkinson on a season long loan. However there still seems some uncertainty around the finality of the arrangement, as the same reports suggest Southampton and West Ham remain interested.

Southampton’s enthusiasm for the player appears dependent upon whether Nathanial Clyne is sold this summer and West Ham simply wish to retain the loan player that faired so well for them last season. But, for the moment at least, we seem to be ahead in the pecking order. Of course, should any late interest in Jenkinson from rivals become more concrete, money talks. It will be interesting to see whether SAFC’s competitors are willing to be as generous in their willingness to match the loan fee we already have in place. Although with the other two teams being able to offer the England U21 International experience in Europe, you can’t help but wonder whether player and agent are waiting for a few further transfer dominoes to fall before committing to any deal.

What is certain is that Jenkinson would add genuine pace to the squad and would certainly be able to play the attacking fullback role that fits so well into Advocaat’s favoured 4-3-3 formation, currently in vogue at the Stadium of Light.

Where this leaves Leeds’ Sam Byram is less clear. The young fullback who has recently been deployed predominately on the right wing for the Championship side has also been heavily linked with a permanent big money move to SAFC. There is an argument for saying we could do with both - Jenkinson to be used for the season, introducing Byram to the Premier League more sparingly. This would ensure he becomes accustomed to the competiveness of it in a more measured way rather than a baptism of fire that has the potential to hinder his development.

Jenkinson certainly gets my vote, and it would appear that of Congerton and Advocaat too. Regardless of whether he ends up at Wearside it’s certainly a good sign to see us looking at players, Jenkinson at least, with both youth as well as the added bonus of experience. Let’s hope the rest of the summer’s transfer activities follow in a similar vein.

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Happy With One Year Deal For Dick
Alex Campbell

I am a bit bored of the jibber jabber that is coming out of the various media outlets regards Dickyboy signing a one year contract. The general view is that it highlights that we have no long term strategy, that we can’t attract a decent manager or missed the one we really wanted (if that’s Allardyce then I for one am delighted!), and that if he signs players it will be a disaster as if he leaves after one year, as those players will of only signed for him.

For me, it's great news!

A one year contract means that we have to have a strategy (not all plans need to be the clichéd ”5 year plan”) in place to ensure we transition properly, rather than the last few years of sack then panic, which I am convinced would happen again without Dick at the helm.

It means that hopefully Dick is consulted on all areas of our structure and strategy, with the invaluable experience he has gained over the years and is building for our future even if it is not for his. I think we all appreciate what Ellis is doing, but he is a financial man, not a footballing man, and this knowledge gap needs filling.

It means that hopefully he will be lining up his successor and ensuring they become engrained in our culture so they can see what SAFC means to us, and what we expect , something I truly think he gets. I am sure he knows in his mind who will come next.

It means hopefully we can strategically recruit players who buy into what we as a club are doing rather than just panic buy the usual dross, overpaid and underperforming, developing our academy, introducing some of the youngsters early in the season while finding the 5 or 6 core players needed to thrive not survive in 15/16 season. I am certain without the owner’s commitment to doing this, Dick would have not bothered.

I know as SAFC fans, we have to be thick skinned, optimistic and tested to the limit, but this time I genuinely feel more than ever that lessons have been learnt and this is the first step away from being the terminal under achievers we have become.


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nowt happening...
new fixtures out tomorrow

Well the fixtures are out tomorrow, so there will be something to report, at last, but in the meantime pick the meat off the bones of this.

It looks like Sunderland will need to ask FIFA to arbitrate over the Ricky Alvarez debacle after being unable to sort out the situation with Inter Milan. Alvarez played the required amount of games to trigger the transfer clause in his loan deal, but SAFC are not happy because he was canny shit and injured for most of the season. Not sure that this is a valid excuse but let's face it we don't want him!

However, one South American we do want is Sebastian Coates and it seems Liverpool are ready to part with him for £3.5m. Coates was pretty average to start with on Wearside, but ended the season with some great displays, so most people

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A little Less Conversation...
A little More Action Please

Another day of nothing but speculation, unless you count the fact that Connor Wickham has been pictured snogging TOWIE’s Jessica Wright in Marbella!

We are still being linked with a number of players such as Arsenal full-back Carl Jenkinson (loan), Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford and Manchester United striker James Wilson (loan), but there's nothing concrete just yet.

Meanwhile, after failing to beat Scotland over the weekend, John O’Shea has admitted that Ireland now need to beat both Germany and Poland in October to qualify for the Euros. So in other words, they have no chance! “For the first half and most of the second we totally controlled it,” said the Sunderland man, “And that’s the unfortunate thing. We’ve got the goal but then the intensity that we needed, that we’d had throughout the game, was just lacking for that first 30 seconds or a minute, whatever it was [at the start of the second half]. That goal is so frustrating because, fair enough, if they stick it in the top corner then you hold your hands up but the way it went in. It hits off James’s toe and then my back or shoulder or whatever. We’ve let them back into it, we’ve made things that bit harder for ourselves now.”

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Carl Jenkinson linked...
youth signing completed

Sunderland have reportedly made a move for Arsenal full back Carl Jenkinson. The deal is alleged to be a season long loan with a £2m loan fee. The English/Norwegian defender spent last season at West Ham on a temporary basis, where he evolved into a much more cultured player than we had seen at Arsenal, and the 23 year old still has plenty of time left to develop.

We have however completed the signing of 16 year old Oscar Krusnell, who will join the club on July 1st. The Swedish left back is certainly one for the future, but it's nice to hear we're looking that far ahead!

A rumour is also circulating that Leeds United have rejected a bid for Sam Byram, and it's apparently a bid from Sunderland. The utility defender has been linked to us for quite some time, with Congerton not looking like he's willing to take no for an answer, but Leeds seem to disagree on our valuation of the player. 21 year old Byram is an exciting prospect but may not be the quick fix we're looking for, if a quick fix is what we need.

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Jimmy Montgomery honoured...
Vergini to leave?

Sunderland 1973 goalkeeper, club legend and top bloke Jimmy Montgomery has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours list. Montgomery will be awarded the British Empire Medal for his longstanding services to football. I can only assume that Lee Cattermole's award was lost in the post. Jimmy admitted that he is thrilled to be receiving the honour: “I am absolutely delighted and it’s a great honour to receive this award. I’ve been involved with football for a number of years, in many different and enjoyable roles. I have so many great memories that last a lifetime and to share this one with my family is something that I will saviour.”

Club Chief Executive Margaret Byrne also sang Montgomery's praises: “Jimmy is a true gentleman.  He is held in such high esteem by everyone in the city. As well as being hugely respected in the footballing world, he has led on many fundraising activities and has helped many charities in the region. On behalf of everybody at SAFC, I congratulate Jimmy on such a great achievement which is thoroughly deserved.”

Santiago Vergini could exit Sunderland via Newell's Old Boys after interest from the South American club. While Sunderland are duty-bound to sign Vergini for £2 million, it's unclear whether Advocaat rates Santi, the defender featuring just once from the bench in the last 5 fixtures, Seb Coates being preferred to the beautiful enigma. Newell's do have the option to buy out that compelof to buy clause or even just sign Vergini after the clause kicks in.

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brown stay confirmed...
jos/fletch

Sunderland AFC have confirmed that Wes Brown has signed a one-year deal to keep him at the Stadium of Light with until June 2016.

Meanwhile, John O'Shea is looking forward to going head to head with Steven Fletcher when the Republic of Ireland face Scotland this weekend. O'Shea said: "Obviously there won't be too much laughing and joking just before the game, but afterwards, it will be the same. You shake hands and you get on with things whatever the result was. But look, you know the player, obviously you get on very well with the player, but ultimately, you want to beat him, that's it."

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erm...
gossip

Morning all, another sunny June day with very little real news to report...

Apparently Micah Richards is joining Aston Villa ahead of Sunderland; despite us offering him an ugly £90,000-a-week. Villa are said to have only offered him £65,000-a-week, but it's closer to home for him! Who needs money when you are already a millionaire?

Meanwhile, Steven Fletcher continues to be linked with Celtic. However, with only a year of his deal at SAFC to run, he would have to take a big pay cut to join the Scottish champions. Sunderland are also said to be offering Fletch plus cash as a swap deal in order for us to bring in their highly rated centre half, Virgil van Dijk.

In other news, Sebastian Coates is away with Uruguay playing in the Copa America while we try and sort a deal for him to stay at Sunderland. Uruguay are reigning champions and begin their 2015 campaign against Jamaica on Saturday (KO 8pm).

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Dick U Turn...
Number Two

Dick Advocaat has decided to overturn the club's decision to release Wes Brown and the central defender will now be offered a one year deal, which will see him act mainly as cover during injuries and suspensions to his team mates. Brown struggles to join in the normal training schedule because of his dodgy knees, but could still be good cover and him signing a one year deal on a reduced wage seems to suit all parties. Thankfully, the club are still expected to bring in two more centre halves, with Sebastian Coates and Celtic’s Virgil van Dijk the most likely contenders.

However, Anthony Reveillere will not be back next season, even though the club agreed a contract extension with the defender just last month. It seems that Dick likes to change his mind!

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Get The Man A Brolly
By Gillian Hill

The wally with the brolly is so very, very funny,
He's asked rich Mike for loads and loads of money.
"You see players are needed who can play in the Prem,
For one season at least, and then....erm?"

Mike replied "I always promise a lot
But there's no Wonga for you in this piss pot.
What you'll do is make do and mend,
I for one will not spend, spend, spend."

The ginger one thought when leaving our club
That by downgrading he was no mug.
Well think again you silly little man,
Relegation will haunt you and every New666tle fan

You will fear the future and not the past
As this Premier League season could well be your last.
Don't you get it, you deserting rat,
You played a big part in where we previously sat.

But no longer for us, it's you up the road
Who will dice with death and then implode

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SUNNY DAY...
SO LET'S GO WHERE WE ARE HAPPY

What a lovely day it is in Sunderland today, I think a trip down the beach is in order. In more football related news, it seems that a new left winger is top of Big Dick's summer shopping list, closely followed by a centre half with pace. He is also keen to sort a long term deal out for Catts, so good news all round.

Meanwhile, Costel Pantilimon reckons he is happy at Sunderland, which is just as well since he's one of our best players. He explained: “I wanted to play more and I chose to go to that club. As I have said all along, I am very thankful for the opportunity from the people at Sunderland to give me a great chance to play for the club. It’s normal to want more, but I want to take it slowly. At the moment I am very happy for what happened this year, it’s a good thing for me that I played consistently and was part of a good team. Dick Advocaat was able to give us confidence at a time when we were suffering and that was seen in our results.”

Pantilimon picked up a knee injury at Arsenal which saw him miss the game at Chelsea and Romania's game this weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland. “I’m very sorry that I cannot get together with my international colleagues at this time,” he added. “We know very well that it’s a very important match. It’s a game that can make us 70 per cent certain that we qualify for the tournament. Unfortunately, this injury prevents my presence on the pitch.”

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no news...
no bad news

Very little happening today folks as we all wait for Lee Congerton and Dick Advocaat to bring in some new players.

A few of the players are away on international duty, in fact Seb Larsson played 75 minutes during Sweden’s 0-0 draw with Norway last night, and thankfully he came through without any injuries.

Meanwhile, Gateshead boss Malcolm Crosby reckons that if he can get his new club promoted next season, it would be a bigger achievement than getting SAFC to the 1992 FA Cup Final. He explained: “It was great at Sunderland and it was a fantastic thing that the players did – but we lost. People forget who came second."

It’s a great opportunity for me because I haven’t been coaching for a couple of years, I’ve been in the recruitment side,” added Crosby. ”But you don’t forget things what you do on the football field. It’s a good club and the progress it’s made over the last few years is fantastic and I want to finish the job off and get promoted. When the phone call came from Graham Wood (former SAFC board member) he had obviously been speaking to a lot of candidates for the job and he’s decided to give me the call which is nice. He was massively supportive when I took over as caretaker (at Sunderland), he was the biggest supporter. The other directors were fantastic but Graham used to come to games with me, go all over, and he was very good to me. It was very important, the friendship, but the bad thing about it is that we’re great mates but in football it might turn out badly but I just hope that’s not the case.”

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Monday Monday...
Dicks Return Could Boost Transfers Quality

Now that we have a stable manager in place, it’s up to Ellis Short to give him the funds to bring in the personnel we require. Before his change of mind, Dick gave Lee Congerton a list of players the club should look at, so let's hope he's cracking on with that. One name already linked is Patrick Bamford, who scored 16 goals for Middlesbrough, while on loan last season, but is registered with Chelsea, where he is surplus to their needs. An offer of £8m might do the trick but other clubs are sniffing around him too.

In other news, Steven Fletcher is just back from his stag weekend in Dubai and with just one year of his deal to run, he's hoping his footballing future will be sorted pretty soon. He said: “I don’t know what is going to happen. It has been a while since I have been able to have a summer without coming back from injury. It is good to be playing in internationals this summer. It will be up to the manager to decide whether he wants to keep me or not. We will wait and see. I don’t think it is quantity because we have a big squad. It is like the manager said. We just need to add a bit of quality to the squad. The sooner we can do it the better. He has done brilliantly since he came in. He is kind of similar to Martin in the way he talks to you individually. You could tell he took a real shine to the lads by the way he became so emotional after the Arsenal game. Ultimately it was his decision if he wanted to stay – we made it clear we wanted him to, so I am glad he has. With the injuries I had had, I was low on confidence, in and out the team, not really playing. Then he came in and started playing me although I picked up another injury, which did not exactly help. In the last few games of the season he was telling me just to keep going and I would get my chance. He is such an attack-minded coach, I had more chances in that Arsenal game than I had had all season.”

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Fletcher getting married
wedding present - shooting boots

After watching an attacking masterclass from Barcelona last night and the sheer ruthlessness of their finishing, it would be only natural to start today's roundup with Steven Fletcher, the striker re-arranging his wedding so that he can play in Scotland's Euro 2016 qualifiers. The wedding will only be low key though, which is hard to believe given that every aspect of Fletcher's life seems to be lavish. His wedding could probably get itself on a certain Channel 4 program. The Jock striker said: “A few boys from Sunderland are coming but it’s mainly just family and friends. But John O’Shea will be there. He’s always in Portugal when I’m there anyway, we play a lot of golf with each other.”

Fletcher also had some kind words on Dick Advocaat deciding to extend his stay: "That's good news for us as he's done brilliantly since he came in. He's kind of similar to Martin [O'Neill] in the way he takes you asides and speaks to you, which I like. You could tell he took a real shine to the lads by the way he got so emotional after the Arsenal game [when Sunderland ensured their safety]. He likes to get forward a lot and that suits us with the players we've got. In the three years I've been at the club we've been [regularly] down at the bottom of the league at the back end of the season so if we can have a good start and give ourselves a fighting chance that would be good."

Meanwhile John O'Shea has been expressing his disdain towards FIFA and their decision to award Republic of Ireland €5 million instead of allowing them to have a replay after they were eliminated from the World Cup Qualifiers by France in 2009 as a result of a blatant handball which wasn't given. O'Shea said: “If you’re talking about what the players would have been looking for from that point of view: ultimately it was done and dusted, the game was over, but if there was going to be anything it would have been a replay. It wouldn’t have been a case of monetary benefits from that point of view."

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Five Reasons Why SAFC should sign Rafael Van Der Vaart
By Graeme Atkinson

I floated the idea of SAFC signing Van Der Vaart on line following Hamburg’s relegation ‘play off’ with Karlsruhe last weekend. It received mixed results. While it’s recognised the former Spurs and Real Madrid man, now 32, is not the force he once was, here are five reasons why he could still do a job for us.

1.
Premier League Experience: You just can’t get away from the fact that it helps a team massively. Someone who has experience of the league, albeit for a relatively short time, would not be caught by surprise by its speed and power. He was even runner up to Gareth Bale in the PFA’s Player’s player of the year award in 2010/11. As we avoided relegation by the skin of our teeth, again, I feel that a player of Van Der Vaart’s pedigree, allied with his experience would help us massively.

2. It would not cost us a penny: The player who was hailed the new Johan Cruyff when he was first coming through the ranks at Ajax is now a free agent. He re-joined Hamburg in 2012. They also just avoided relegation last season decided against extending Van Der Vaart’s contract. Surely with only wages as the main financial outlay, it represents something of a risk free opportunity for any team looking to award him a contract.

3. 4-3-3: Coming up through the academy at Ajax, Van Der Vaart would easily slot into the current favoured 4-3-3 formation at SAFC. So often we’ve brought players to the club and then asked them to play in positions or systems that they aren’t comfortable with. Rodwell being a recent example.

4. He’s played with Defoe at Spurs: Advocaat will be looking to get the team flying out of the traps come August 8th. He has already said that SAFC need fewer signings than in previous transfer windows. However those that do come through the door need to have quality. This has become evident for all to see, but to help take this approach a step further, why not bring players in who also have experience of working with the existing squad. This would save Dick time when he’s trying to get new players to gel with their new team mates.

5. The Adam Johnson factor: We simply don’t know what is going to happen to arguably our most creative player. Come the end of August, SAFC could be without their £10mil star man depending upon the outcome of his trial. Congerton needs a back up plan in place and free agent, Van Der Vaart, who is clearly a thoroughbred footballer seems like an ideal candidate should things turn sour for Johnson.

All signings bring with them potential pitfalls. This one would be no different. However as gambles go, any deal for Van Der Vaart would seem to carry little to no risk. In my opinion Congerton should be urged to snap him up before others do.

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Defoe loves Dick...
colback still a prick

Following the return of Dick Advocaat, Jermain Defoe has compared the little general to Jose Mourinho, in terms of work ethic and temperament. Defoe said: "I was shocked more than anything because it's a massive U-turn. But he's probably looked at it and thought it's a great opportunity to come back to the club and do something special next season.

"He was a good guy. I can imagine everyone is delighted at the club,He's a really straight guy. Every day, everyone's got to perform in training. If you're not going to perform, you're not going to play – it's as simple as that. Away from that, he's a really nice man, a really nice guy and you can have a laugh with him. But when it's time to work, you work. He is similar to what I hear Jose Mourinho is like, [Carlo] Ancelotti - really nice guys, but when it is time to work, they work."

Jack Colback, has admitted that he didn't expect a relegation battle this season. The reason for that is because he is stupid and deluded and a traitor of the realm. Cack Stabback said: “It was a whirlwind first season for me. To be honest, I thought I was moving away from relegation battles when I signed here! It is what it is, and that’s the thing about football, it’s so unpredictable. You can only control so much in football." You're a nob.

Ahead of England's friendly with Republic of Ireland, ex-Sunderland man Jordan Henderson has spoken of Roy Keane and how he helped his Sunderland career flourish. As Jordan explains, he is an admirer of Keane: “Roy has been a huge part of me getting my chance as a footballer. He gave me my debut at Sunderland and had a huge impact on my career. I have got a lot to thank him for and I can never really repay him. I learnt a lot from him while I was at Sunderland, and also from how good he was as a player. He taught me alot. I was a young lad coming into the first-team and I think from how hard I was working on the training field he could see I really wanted to be a footballer. Obviously, I hope he saw a bit of quality in there."

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lads on tour...
Going to the big U.S of A (& Canada)

Sunderland AFC will travel across the pond to the USA and Canada for their pre-season tour.

Dick Advocaat’s side will be based near San Francisco for a week-long training camp, which will include two games in Northern California. The first takes place on Tuesday July 14, against Sacramento Republic FC at Bonney Field stadium, kicking off at 8pm local time. Three days later, Sunderland will face Mexican Primera side Club de Fútbol Pachuca on Friday 17 July, again at Bonney Field, Sacramento, at 7.30pm.

The Black Cats will round off their trip with a visit to Toronto to take on Canadian MLS side Toronto FC, at 7pm local time.

Speaking about the tour, Sunderland AFC’s sporting director Lee Congerton said: “The trip will afford us the opportunity to face quality opposition as we prepare for the season ahead. The facilities for training are great and the games step up over the tour in terms of intensity and this will help us build our fitness and sharpness levels, which is the main aim of pre-season.”

Fans wishing to attend the games will be able to purchase tickets online from the three clubs, further details of which will be confirmed shortly. SAFC will not sell any tickets for the fixtures.

Further information regarding Sunderland AFC’s pre-season plans can be found on www.safc.com or by using the hashtag #SAFConTour on twitter. Supporters planning to attend the games can email safcontour@safc.com to receive up-to-date information.

So here is our preseason:

Darlington 1883, 9 July
7.45pm
Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland
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Sacramento Republic, 14 July
8.00pm
Bonney Field, Sacramento, California

Club de Fútbol Pachuca, 17 July
7.30pm
Bonney Field, Sacramento, California

Toronto FC, 22 July
7.00pm
BMO Field, Toronto, Canada

Doncaster, 29 July
7.45pm
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ALS BLOG...
By joshua carr

Dick Advocaat. You little tease. You left me heartbroken when you decided not to renew your contract but it turns out you were just stringing us all along. I’m chuffed you’re back but please don’t do that to me again.

Up until around 4pm, I was blissfully unaware that the little general had decided to sign a new deal to keep him in charge for another year.

Whilst playing snooker in the clubhouse after a round of golf in the glorious sunshine on the north west coast I received a phone call off my cousin who was driving home from work to inform me that Dick had signed a new deal.

As I stood over ready to pot a red it hit me. Dick is back. Apparently then exclaiming “Fucking hell big Dick’s back” doesn’t go down well in a golf club.

So where do we go from here? That’s after we spend about a grand on flowers for Mrs Advocaat. Well, let’s hope that Dick has been given the money to spend. He outlined before he went who he wants and what positions need strengthening and I have full faith in the little Dutchman.

It was all doom and gloom for a while looking at some of the names linked with the job. No man should ever try to be excited at the prospect of either Sean Dyche, Sam Allardyce or Steve McClaren managing their team.

For the time being I’m over the moon Dick is back for another season. It gives us time to build a foundation for whoever takes over after. That’s if Dick isn’t here until he dies.

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Wor Dick...
Mrs dick happy too

Well what a boost that was yesterday. Just what was needed. The return of Dick also heralds the return of his usual backroom staff too.  The Dutchman’s long-term assistant Bert van Lingen and first-team coach Zeljko Petrovic are expected to be alongside him when the new season starts, citing their love of the Ivy House as the main reason for returning.

The general consensus of what persuaded Dick to come back up is Ellis Short promising him the acquisition of a few quality players with a £50 million transfer budget. Already the names have been flying around but the two names that keep on reappearing is fellow countrymen defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Jordy Clasie (not another Geordie!) who is very highly rated. The Virgil deal has been linked with a swap deal for Steven Fletcher.

John O’Shea also appears happy with Advocaat’s decision. Why? “I think the obvious thing to say is his experience. He also knew what to say and what to do at the right time; his team talks before the game, his controlling of emotions and the way the communicated to the individual and the collective was amazing. He got the best response from the players and, like I said, that comes with experience. The squad was tested at the end of the season; I got a knock and Wes was out after picking up a small knee injury, but he managed to come back for the Everton game when Santi dropped in and Sebastian also had a fantastic couple of games. The combinations had to change but that shows the strength of the squad because we were able to cope and still ensure our survival. They did a fantastic job for the team and we need that character and competition moving forward.”

Mrs Advocaat’s flower and charity fund at the time of writing is £1,914. Well done guys! Share the excess between the SAFC Foundation and TeamGeorge?

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Long Live The Returned King...
By Graeme atkinson

Any anxiety Lee Congerton must have had around finding a suitable replacement for Dick Advocaat evaporated on Thursday.  We now know Dick’s replacement is none other than Dick Advocaat - the King is dead, long live the returned King!

Now the dust has settled a little, we can reflect on Dick’s dramatic U-turn.   I’m sure it came as a surprise to everyone but credit to Congerton and Short who must have sensed that the Little General’s decision did not have a complete finality to it after all.   Their niggling away in order to get the answer they ultimately wanted just shows there was always hope that Advocaat might change his mind.

It does beg the question though, just how close did Congerton get to appointing someone else before the decision came from Advocaat?  Perhaps the Sunderland hierarchy genuinely felt that there was no viable alternative?  This may have also played on Advocaat’s mind.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to see us struggle with the wrong candidate in place.  Not since the beloved Niall Quinn has any individual from outside of the local area bought so completely into the emotion of the club.  In fact Dick’s attachment to SAFC is all the more special given he was only in charge for nine games!

It was also reassuring to hear that Dick’s decision to sign for another year was made following discussions with his family.  Everyone needed to be happy to make this work and get that complete buy in.  To have his family onside, when retirement was on the cards, must be important to Dick and he will go into the new season knowing he has the support of those around him as well has everyone connected with the club. 

It’s also testament to the supporters that a Go Fund Me campaign has been created so that flowers can be sent to the Advocaat family.  At the time of writing over £1000 had already been raised!

So now we know Advocaat is back, let’s look forward to see what’s next.  We know Dick made a short list of players, which he passed to Congerton before temporarily leaving.  We can assume that those identified will now have a better chance of being offered contracts by the club given another head coach won’t have an opportunity to pour scorn over those selected.

Dick also made it clear that investment needed to be made in the right players.  Fewer signings but more quality is the mantra this time around.  Perhaps the thing that is most intriguing in respect of transfers is for the first time since the model was introduced at Sunderland, the head coach and Director of Football actually seem to have a good deal of professional respect for each other.  Imagine what can be achieved when everyone is pulling in the same direction?

Attention will inevitably turn again to Advocaat’s successor sooner or later given it’s only a one-year contract.  I can understand the reasons for this. I’m sure a one-year deal appealed to both sides given the circumstances.  The only slight misgiving I have around how this deal was communicated is the fact it wasn’t announced as a one-year rolling contract, publically at least.  This would have avoided the glare of the media once again focusing on Congerton around spring 2016.  However that conversation is for another time.  Instead let’s continue to bask in the positivity. Our Dick is back, will you be?

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Sobs Says...
Return Of The Dick!

Write something about your reaction to Advocaat coming back, they said. Easy – same as my recent reaction to the crucial point at Arsenal. Yeeeeeeeeehah!

..and that’s not just because we’ve got a manager who we know we can trust to do a job, but also because it means that SAFC can do what I wanted them to do and have Dick at the helm while they bring in his successor to watch, learn, and inwardly digest to make him (or her) perfectly qualified to step into the manager’s shoes at the end of next season. 

Of course, there are a couple of added bonuses that come with the appointment. Firstly, it means that the powers that be at SAFC have realised that people with the footballing acumen of Advocaat don’t come along that often, and that they need to compensate for the lack of real football people at the top of the SAFC hierarchy by having a real football person in charge of the team. Secondly, it means that, having agreed with Dick’s assessment at the end of the season that we need to buy a handful of high quality players, the powers that be will have to back him with the cold, hard cash to make that assessment a reality – probably more so than if he’d simply stayed on after the Chelsea game. Clever Lad.

There is, however, a big question to be answered. Why? Was it a Ferguson-esque “I’m away if you don’t give me the money to buy who I need” gamble by Dick, safe in the knowledge that if the money wasn’t forthcoming he’d be happy to stay retired as he’d promised? Or was it one of those cunning bloke things? You could see after the Arsenal game that he “got” us – he realised what SAFC, and more importantly its supporters, are all about, and, had he been ten years younger, he’d have signed a new contract while the team saluted the fans. How could he swing the job, given that he’d promised his missus that he’d be available full-time at home back in Holland come the end of May? Picture the scene – blokes have done it for donkey’s years – you’ve just had a great weekend away with your mates, where everybody had a fabulous time and everybody came away happy. Then, virtually straight away, you get invited to a stag do. Initially you say you’ll think about it, then you turn it down because you’ve just been away and feel that you should spend more time at home. So you mope around the house or mow the lawn, in Dick’s case wearing a Sunderland tracky top, sighing at every opportunity and looking wistfully of photographs of the recent joyous occasion, until the lady of the house says “look, why don’t you go and have a pint with your mates. Go on the stag do, have a good time. At least you’ll not have a face like a wet Wednesday in Grimsby while the party’s going on.” Or in Mrs Advocaat’s case, “oh, ga dan Dick. Laat ons Ga naar Sunderland en hebben een geweldige tijd . Ik hoor Jackie White markt is veel beter deze dagen, en ze hebben een erg leuke baan van Roker Seafront gemaakt”

So Dick grabbed his already-packed bag from under th