Sunderland squad take to factory floor in Caterpillar visit
Chris Coleman's Sunderland squad swapped the Academy of Light training pitches for the factory floor as they visited a manufacturing plant.
The entire Black Cats first team were at construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar's Peterlee facility as they learned more about the company's work and met staff who are also fans.
Sunderland are currently bottom of the Championship with just eight games of the season remaining and at present look likely to drop into the third tier for only the second time in the club's almost 140-year history.
Manager Coleman was among those on the tour and he and his players even got to work on a factory floor simulator, used by apprentices and new staff at the factory.
"It's a chance for us to get away from the training ground and into somewhere different," said Coleman.
"We've all heard of the company but I suppose we didn't realise just how big this plant is.
"A lot of the staff here support Sunderland so it's been a good opportunity for us to meet them and have a chat.
"This is real life, if you like.
"We're bottom of the league right now and facing a really tough end to the season, but we maybe need to stop and think how lucky we are to do what we do."
Club captain and Ireland international defender John O'Shea said: "The operation here is very impressive and it's credit to the company for the work they have done.
"The name of the company well-known around the world because they have such pride and tradition in their work."
Caterpillar had a turnover of $45billion last year and has 98,500 employees worldwide, with 1,400 of those at the Peterlee base.
Sunderland supporter Michael Thornley, a supply chain manager, got to meet the squad and was also given a signed SAFC shirt in recognition of his 37 years of service with Caterpillar.
Michael, who is due to retired in three weeks, said: "It's been nice talking to Chris Coleman and getting his point of view of things at the club and what he can achieve.
"It's been very tough supporting Sunderland recently but we have to live in hope that things will get better and the team can get out of trouble.
"Today has been great for engagement and we've enjoyed giving the players an appreciation of what the company is all about."