Capital challenges awaiting Sunderland Reserves

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SUNDERLAND Reserves will play three London games next month as part of their pre-season preparations for the 2011/12 Barclays Premier Reserve League North campaign.

Attractive matches have been arranged against Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Watford towards the end of July, although unfortunately, fans will not be able to watch, with the games set to be played behind closed doors.

Supporters will be allowed in for the four other fixtures, though, all in the North East, with Consett, Gateshead, Darlington and Whitley Bay lined up as opponents for Keith Bertschin’s men.

The Reserves finished second in their last group season, just two points behind Blackburn Rovers.

And they will be looking to go one better next season, with a lot of young talent pressing for recognition.

Since his arrival at the club two seasons ago, Steve Bruce has admitted Reserve game victories have not been one of his top priorities – the second string rarely allowed to include senior players – and has instead been used as a channel to bring young players through rapidly.

It was a policy which hurt the Reserve side’s progress initially – they went from being league champions to a season of struggle.

But the blossoming of a string of young players saw Bertschin’s men pushing strongly at the top of the table last season and the coach will hope that the likes of Jordan Cook, Ryan Noble, Craig Lynch and Louis Laing can continue their progress in the season ahead.

The Reserves get their pre-season underway at Consett’s Belle Vue ground at 3pm on Saturday, July 16, before their three games in the south of England.

They will face Watford at 1pm, Wednesday, July 20, at the London Colney Ground, Tottenham at Spurs Lodge, Chigwell, at midday Friday, July 22, and Arsenal at the Shenley Training Centre in Herts at 11.30am on Tuesday, July 26.

After that, it will be the remaining North East legs of pre-season when they play Gateshead at the International Stadium at 3pm, Saturday, July 30, Darlington at the Northern Echo Arena at 7.45pm on Wednesday, August 3, and Whitley Bay at Hillheads Park, when a Sunderland XI will take on the to the winners of the FA Vase for the at 3pm, Saturday, August 6.