FATIGUE is beginning to take it’s toll in the Far East.
Maybe it’s the humidity.
Maybe it’s the long hours spent trying to articulate Paolo Di Canio’s latest diatribe.
Or maybe it’s the simply the after-effects of too much Tsingtao and deep-fried chicken feet (surprisingly pleasant by the way).
I realise few of you are going to be reaching for the violin to play a melancholy ditty for me.
Watching football in exotic climes doesn’t exactly compare to digging a ditch.
But spare a thought for the mascots of the three Premier League sides here in Hong Kong.
Now, this picture is slightly akin to taking a six-year-old aside and having a quiet chat about Santa Claus.
Yet capturing them in the dressing rooms, huddled together at a training event for local schoolchildren yesterday morning, proved a suitable Kodak moment (see right).
Obviously, Samson and Deliliah are real though. These are just the temporary solutions while Sunderland are in the Far East ...
WES BROWN, Jozy Altidore and Keiren Westwood were all at this community initiative, and revelled in the opportunity to play a touch of five-a-side with the local youngsters.
It’s hugely encouraging to see Brown moving so freely, particularly when you watch retired Spurs defender Ledley King – also out here as a Premier League ambassador – struggling to walk without limping.
Brown has undoubtedly been the most popular Sunderland player out here among the local media too. Those Manchester United links have not been forgotten.
The seven-year-old goalkeeper he nutmegged will certainly remember, as will the young whipper-snapper being marked by Westwood who took a corner flush in the face.
But the most damage done by a Premier League player came from one of the Manchester City contingent, as behemoth Yaya Toure managed to pole-axe a 4ft rookie.
Paolo Di Canio would surely approve. No such thing as a friendly.
SPEAKING to a couple of neutrals, they have tipped Sunderland to lift the Asia Trophy tomorrow after their impressive display against Spurs.
In humid conditions which reached 98 per cent on Wednesday, fitness is a defining factor in these matches and Sunderland have shown that the work done under Paolo Di Canio is paying off.
Winning a pre-season trophy won’t mean a great deal, even if silverware at the Stadium of Light is like a Spurs press conference without questions about Gareth Bale. Largely non-existent.
But making an impression out here might just help Sunderland to sell a few more shirts and earn a couple of extra fans in this part of the world.
After all, that is what this trip is predominantly about.
Sunderland’s participation in the tournament has certainly earned them a bit of extra attention, with a colour piece on the Black Cats featured on the back page of the South China Morning Post yesterday.
The article centred on fans, both from Wearside and stationed out here, and why they support Sunderland, rather than one of the Premier League sides who have a chance of winning the title or qualifying for the Champions League.
It concluded with the line: “The pleasure seems to balance out the pain and it’s an infectious vibe.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself.