SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Caldwell to go, Keane’s bonding sessions

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

CALDWELL TO GO

Defender is shown the door by Keane

STEVE CALDWELL is set to make a shock exit from the Stadium of Light this week with Burnley favourites to sign the Sunderland skipper.

Black Cats boss Roy Keane revealed yesterday that contract talks between club and player had broken down and a bid from Clarets manager Steve Cotterill had been accepted for the 26-year-old.

But news that the Black Cats captain can leave is sure to alert other sides and Cotterill might find himself facing competition for the Scottish international’s signature.

Caldwell is fit again after a hamstring strain and was expected to be an integral part of Sunderland’s push for promotion. But a fall-out with the manager over extending his contract has led him being available to other clubs and Keane has allowed him to talk to Burnley.

He said: “I gave permission for Steve Caldwell to speak to Burnley and I know Steve spoke to them yesterday afternoon.

“Steve’s contract is expiring in the summer, and we had to look at the situation. It’s a long story and I don’t really want to go into it. But I spoke to Steve and his agent and there were a few things I wasn’t happy about.

“Steve Cotterill had been on to me and he cam back on Monday and made an offer. And I thought that in the interests of the club, we would accept it.

“I spoke to Steve (Caldwell) but unfortunately, it was over the phone because I was away from the area. But he’s gone down to Burnley to talk, so we’ll see how it goes on/”

Caldwell is believed to be surprised that contract talks have broken down and disappointed that he has been allowed to leave.

He started 41 of 46 league games the last time Sunderland were promoted from the Championship and was a regular player in Sunderland’s doomed Premiership campaign.

This season, he has only played 11 games but that has been through injury. Medial knee ligament damage in Sunderland’s first home game of the season ruled him our for three months and a hamstring strain, now healed, has sidelined him this year.

Whatever bids that may come in for the Sunderland captain though, he is not obliged to go. He could choose to ignore the offers and move on in the summer in a Bosman deal, but that decision could mean effectively giving up half a year of his career in unpleasant circumstances.

KEANE’S BONDING SESSIONS

Sunderland’s players have taken a break from football to work on team-bonding exercises – but it was certainly no holiday for the squad!

The Black Cays have a game-free weekend coming up because of their exit from the FA Cup at Preston earlier this month.

The last time Sunderland had a break in the season, Roy Keane took his players on a sunshine break to Portugal for a relaxing few days to recharge the batteries.

This time he has lined up an army assault course for players and staff!

The Black Cats manager said: “We have organised a day out for the players and hopefully the lads will enjoy it. With us having no game at the weekend, we were looking around for team-bonding stuff, especially as we’ve got a few new players this month.

“So we’re going to an army barracks and hopefully the lads will enjoy it.

“There are paintballing games as well as an assault course – and there’s something to do with high ropes which I might just give a miss to!

“The first team and the reserves will be involved in the day and I think it will be great for the new lads too.

“It’s a chance for the players to see different sides of themselves and each other.

“I love all that stuff. It’s brilliant.

“You see different character traits – you see who emerges as leaders and who are up for it and who are the real softies.

“It’s all about team-building because you always get a bit of a laugh from days like these. But when you organise stuff like this with the players, it is the staff who get more excited about it than anyone else. I’ve had to keep them calm! I’m looking forward to it, though.

“It is something different – playing football is great and it’s what players love but it’s always nice to do something different as a squad sometimes.”