Sunderland’s tour of France began with an emergency landing after engine failure onboard the club’s plane and ended with injuries to key players.
Despite those challenges, the week in Evian-les-Bains can still be classed a success, with David Moyes getting to know his players in a superb setting.
Moyes has reaped the benefits of Sam Allardyce’s pre-season planning, with excellent facilities and crucially a sensible schedule.
Fitness levels are up, training has been bright and Sunderland remain unbeaten with four wins and a draw.
The younger players have also shone this week, with assured left-back Tommy Robson again showing his potential in the 1-1 draw with Ligue 1 side Montpellier.
But the sight of Jan Kirchhoff and Billy Jones hobbling off the pitch within five minutes of each other only pressed home the need for fresh blood – especially with Jermain Defoe, Jack Rodwell and Patrick van Aanholt nursing injuries too.
A further reminder of the need for new signings was timely, given owner Ellis Short was watching on from the stand.
The club’s American owner had jetted in to watch the final friendly of the tour in Aix-les-Bains.
The town where the game was being played had made international headlines just days before.
France is on a heightened sense of alert after the recent spate of terror attacks and armed police were visible inside the ground with sniffer dogs also on patrol.
One of the terrorists involved in the killing of a priest in a Normandy church lived in Aix-les-Bains – he lived in a block of flats close to the ground.
The game itself was very average, with both sides struggling to build much momentum on a very close July evening.
While the game itself may have been unremarkable, it did highlight Sunderland’s chronic lack of depth – with Moyes having to cope with depleted options.
The need for new signings is growing with every day.
The squad is paper-thin and in need of five quality signings, at least. As things stand, the side is currently worse than the one that finished last season.
The last thing needed was a bout of injuries, especially as the new manager needs all the time available to work with the players on his system and style of play.
Kirchhoff, who has only just returned from a calf injury, trudged off with a hamstring strain which requires a scan, closely followed by right-back Jones, suffering from a hip problem.
Jones is Sunderland’s only senior right-back. It was worrying that the team named was Moyes’ strongest side available to him.
The Stade Jaques Forestier has just the one stand and sat in front of Short was Defoe, van Aanholt and Rodwell.
While Sunderland may not have the long-term injury problems of other clubs, the squad is so threadbare that they can’t even afford short-term injuries.
There is, of course, no point risking players just for the sake of it in pre-season games and Van Aanholt would have played if it was a competitive fixture.
But the injuries to two key players in Defoe and Kirchhoff are worrying.
Despite the positives surrounding training and fitness levels, the one thing that you can’t get away from is the dearth of transfer activity at the club this summer.
Allardyce’s protracted departure is at the root of the problem, with Sunderland unable to make strides into the market while the uncertainty hung over the club.
Moyes offers the chance of another fresh start, a real chance for some stability at the club but he needs the players and squad with which to compete in the Premier League.
The match itself was poor and lacked moments of real quality.
With Defoe missing, Fabio Borini led the Sunderland line with support from Duncan Watmore down the right and Wahbi Khazri down the left.
And it was Khazri that wasted a good opening two minutes in, blasting the ball high over the goal onto the running track.
Jeremain Lens fired wide while Borini saw a good effort well-saved by Geoffrey Jourdren in a dominating open spell.
The game quickly became scrappy though, with drinks breaks taken in the warm weather and first-half substitutions after the injuries to Kirchhoff and Jones.
Triallist Charles N’Zogbia and Seb Larsson – who impressed at right-back in his first appearance of pre-season – on in their place.
Vito Mannone did well to palm Ryad Boudebouz’s 36th minute effort round the post before Sunderland took the lead five minutes later.
Captain Lee Cattermole played a through ball to Borini and he made no mistake this time, putting Sunderland 1-0 up with a smart finish.
Sunderland were pegged back second half and Montpellier’s pressure paid off in the 67th minute, Camara shooting low past Mannone.
A further spate of substitutions disrupted the flow but the Black Cats did improve, with 17-year-old sub Joel Asoro adding pace and energy up front.
It ended all square but the result didn’t really matter.
What matters is getting Kirchhoff and Defoe back fit and new signings in.
Montpellier HSC: Jourdren, Congre, Vitorino Da Silva (C), Sawson, Boudebouz, Skhiri, Mounie, Camara (Marveaux 79), Vanden Borre, Roussillow (Remy 34) (Fito 80), Ninga, Subs not used: Pionnier, N’Diaye, Lasne, Berigaud, Saint, Saihi, Deplagwe.
Goal: Camara (67). Booked: Camara (65)
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones (Larsson 28), T Robson, Kaboul (O’Shea 72), Kone, Cattermole (C) (E Robson 84 ), Khazri (J Robson 72), Lens (Asoro 69), Kirchhoff (N’Zogbia 23), Watmore (Gooch 69), Borini. Subs not used: Pickford, Honeyman, Stryjek, Ledger, Greenwood.
Goal: Borini (41). Booked: T Robson (11)