Pete Sixsmithis in pre-season training, too, after marking enough exam papers to pay for trips to Darlington (eight miles on the No 1 bus) and Hoffenheim (change at Darlo) …
After the “delights” of Spain v The Netherlands, we are back to normal – ie thinking and writing about the football that really MEANS something for us.
As the first domestic friendly looms into view at Darlington we can begin to anticipate the opening game of our fourth successive season as a Premier League club, against the might of Birmingham City.
Tomorrow is my first Sunderland game at the Whatever It’s Called This Season Arena. It should be an interesting afternoon, with a mixture of first team fringe players, players seeking to impress scouts and youngsters. I was particularly looking forward to seeing our new keeper, Simon Mignolet in action, but I think that I may be denied that pleasure.
The news this morning that Craig Gordon has fractured his arm is really bad news and on a par with yesterday’s bulletin informing a distressed nation that Emile Heskey had decided to retire from International football.
For Craig Gordon, it’s yet another setback. It’s the arm that Jermain Defoe stamped on last year and the prognosis is not good. Eric Black has said that he will be “out for the foreseeable future”.
It means that we will probably have to keep hold of Fulop, or throw either Mignolet or Trevor Carson in to the deep end. Both are Under 21 Internationals, both are big men (6ft plus) – and both have zero experience of the Premier League.
Mignolet appears to have a decent pedigree. He has played an important part in Sint Trudens rise through the Jupiter League. He was pursued by us and PSV Eindhoven, before opting for Wearside and Nissan rather than Dommelside and Philips. He has a handful of Belgian Under 21 caps and is said to be knocking on the door of the first team. He could be another Tommy Sorensen – or another Edwin Zoetibeir.
Who do we expect to see at Darlington tomorrow then? The Paraguayans are still packing their bags in Ascuncion, Bent is still on holiday and the Argentine full back is not yet an Italian. Al-Muhamaddi may make the line up. Martyn Waghorn is out, but should be back in training on Monday and on the plane to Portugal on Tuesday.
It may be our last look at Nyron, McCartney, Tainio and Healey. I don’t envisage any of them playing a part in season 2010-11. Murphy is on his way to Celtic, where he will no doubt terrorise the Hamilton Academicals defence. He’s been a decent signing for us and I hope he takes some positive memories of his time at Sunderland with him to Glasgow.
Will it be a Belgian, a Hungarian or an Ulsterman between the sticks tomorrow? We shall see …