Sunderland ready for first pre-season friendly at the Stadium of Light since Ajax visit in 2008

Sunderland fans will be able to watch their club's rebuild at close quarters this summer, with the vast majority of pre-season games set to take place in the UK.

Thursday, 25th May 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:04 pm
Sunderland fans. Picture by Frank Reid

And there will be a prestige pre-season friendly at the Stadium of Light for the first time in nine years.

The departure of David Moyes and the arrival of a new manager may lead to some tweaks of the schedule, but the former Black Cats boss confirmed plans were well in place before his final game against Chelsea last weekend.

Sunderland will travel abroad for a training camp in Austria, but they will not play any games while there.

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They will play most of their games in the UK, with a handful of games in England and north of the border in Scotland.

The club will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Stadium of Light opening and are set to mark it with a high-profile fixture.

The ground has not been able to host a pre-season friendly for a number of years due to staging concerts in the off season.

That will not happen this summer with and paves the way for the first open-to-fans friendly at the ground since the visit of Ajax in 2008.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory for the visitors that day as El Hadji Diouf and Steed Malbranque appeared on home turf for the first time.

Former boss Moyes said at the start of last season that he believed the lack of friendlies at home may be hampering his side at the start of the season.

Sunderland have had to request an away fixture to begin the season in order to give the pitch in time to recover – and the Black Cats’ dismal recent record in matches in August and September perhaps bears out Moyes’ theory.

He said: “I don’t know how it starts.

“But I made one suggestion was that we need to get used to having a pre-season friendly at home.

“I think they’ve said, for the last five or six years, they [the club] don’t want their first game at home.

“I reckon that if, in the last five years, we’d had three or four of those first games at home, we’d have won at least one of them.

“I can’t prove that, but that’s my thought,” he added.

“Even having a couple of pre-season games at home would have done Sunderland no harm.

“I’m not saying that’s the biggest reason, but maybe it’s something that could have helped get rid of this, I don’t know what you’d call it, hoodoo?

“I think the club, and I’m talking about the leadership, need to say ‘no we’re not doing that, we’re actually going to see if we can get the first league game at home, play a pre-season tournament at home get a couple of games on the pitch, give the crowd something else to see as well’.

“They’ve not been treated to an awful lot of good things. Maybe that might not be the answer, but I’m trying to find one.”

Moyes’ successor will be hoping to reap the benefits of the change in approach.