Aiden O'Brien discusses the invaluable experience that Sunderland must take from their first friendly at Gateshead

Aiden O’Brien believes playing in front of an empty Gateshead International Stadium will prove invaluable for Sunderland – as they prepare to start their League One campaign behind closed doors.

Friday, 21st August 2020, 7:03 am

The Black Cats make the short trip to take on Gateshead on Saturday, August 22 (3pm kick-off), with a limited number of club officials and press set to be the only spectators in attendance.

And this is likely to be the norm for the early weeks of the League One season, with Sunderland’s early fixtures likely to be played in front of empty stadia – with October 1 currently the earliest date at which supporters can return.

Phil Parkinson has been keen to acclimatise his players to playing in front of an empty stadium – with a friendly at the Stadium of Light planned for later in the summer – and O’Brien fees the club’s opening pre-season fixture will be a perfect introduction to the new normal.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Aiden O'Brien is relishing his first Sunderland appearance

“I’m looking forward to getting out there with the lads for the first time and hopefully we can take what we’ve done in training into the game,” he said, speaking to

“It will be good to work on things in a proper game, it’s been a long time coming.

“It looks like we’ll be starting the season with no fans in the stadium, so Saturday will give us an opportunity to adapt and get used to that.

“I’m sure we can come away from the game with a positive result and performance, and take that into the beginning of the season.”

O’Brien is one of only two new faces to have joined the Black Cats this summer, with the former Millwall forward and Bailey Wright the only additions made by Parkinson thus far.

Reflecting on his early weeks at the club, O’Brien said: “My first couple of weeks have been brilliant and the boys have taken me into the group really well.

“The coaches have got us working really hard in preparation for the season and we’re all looking sharp and fit in training.”

The Echo will be providing live coverage from Saturday’s pre-season friendly with Gateshead. Phil Smith and Mark Donnelly will be at the International Stadium to bring you live updates, behind the scenes insight and post-match reaction.

A message from the Editor:

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to the Sunderland Echo website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit here to sign up. You can subscribe to the newspaper with 20% off here. Thank you.