Sunderland could play behind-closed-doors friendly at Austria training camp

Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.
Sunderland v Club de Futbol Pachuca on their North American tour. Picture: David Mackie.
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Sam Allardyce admits Sunderland could play a behind-closed-doors friendly during their Austrian training camp - if an opponent becomes available.

Sunderland fly out to the Alps tomorrow for a nine-day stay, which is primarily aimed at building up the fitness levels of Allardyce’s squad, before their friendly programme gets underway at Hartlepool on July 20.

But Sunderland will be one of several European teams based in Austria and Allardyce knows that may lead to an impromptu encounter on the training ground.

“We’ll maybe bump into another team from Europe out there, who might want to give us a game, although that would be behind closed doors,” said Allardyce.

“It wouldn’t be an official match, but that’s happened to me in the past.

“But ultimately, it’s about lifting the lads’ endurance so they have the tenacity to cope with what will be another physical, exciting season, and hopefully one without the nerve-ends jangling at the back end.

“My focus is to keep everyone as fit as possible and then to get their fitness levels to where they are 100 per cent fit when the first game comes.”

In contrast to last summer when Sunderland endured a trans-Atlantic pre-season trip to North America, the Black Cats will be based far closer to home this year.

Sunderland face domestic encounters against Hartlepool and Rotherham, three games in France and then a concluding friendly against Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.

And Allardyce said he was conscious of avoiding any long hauls, to ensure Sunderland can avoid the pitfalls of recent seasons and begin the campaign on the front foot.

“The lads have put together a very good pre-season, they’ve worked really hard,” he added to the club website.

“We haven’t gone for the money. I did say to Ellis (Short) that we want to be focused and ready for the start of the season.

“We didn’t want to be travelling to the States, China or Australia for a few bob.

“We’ve just increased our revenue by 30 per cent with the new television deal.

“Let’s get ready properly, because this club has always faulted in the first five games, which has ultimately resulted in fighting a relegation battle.”