Analysis - How did Sunderland new boys fare in pre-season opener?

Adam Matthews
Adam Matthews
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For the couple of thousand Sunderland fans gathered around three sides of Heritage Park last night, there were a host of familiar faces to gaze over.

The Sunderland squad has not yet endured the major overhaul which is required, with the club’s transfer business still in its relative infancy.

Matthews may have been the only new first-team arrival on show, but there was one from the Under-21s

But there were a handful in red and white who did provide a spot of intrigue.

This was the first glimpse of new signing Adam Matthews after the right-back’s arrival last week in a £2million move from Celtic.

Dick Advocaat’s blueprint is for Matthews to complement Billy Jones and Patrick van Aanholt in offering full-backs who can bomb forward and provide the width in a 4-3-3 set-up.

In truth, there were only scant occasions when Matthews was able to do that after being introduced at the interval for van Aanholt, with Jones moving to left-back.

At this stage, the Welsh international was rightly concentrating on doing the basics and knocking the rust off from the summer, rather than making blinding forays into the final third.

There is plenty of time for that to come later in the pre-season programme when Matthews will hope to dislodge Jones from the right-back berth.

Matthews may have been the only new first-team arrival on show, but there was one from the Under-21s, with centre-half George Brady playing the second half.

Brady has joined the U21 set-up after being released by Chelsea, with Sunderland’s coaching staff sufficiently impressed during a trial spell at the end of last season.

The 18-year-old certainly has the physical tools to make the grade, but he produced a rash challenge to concede a penalty, just after Sunderland had dragged themselves back to 2-2.

Vito Mannone came to Brady’s rescue with a superb stop, but he continued to put a foot in during the subsequent exchanges and clearly isn’t afraid of the physical stuff.

After replacing Wes Brown, Brady partnered academy product Tom Beadling at the back, who along with Duncan Watmore and Jordan Pickford, will travel with the first-team squad to North America this weekend.

Sunderland have high hopes for Beadling, albeit he may be sent out on loan during the course of the campaign to gain first-team experience.

But while Beadling has looked a composed figure at U21 level, he clearly showed signs of nerves during the opening exchanges last night after being caught in possession a couple of times.

That probably comes with the territory of being in a first-team environment, where you are rubbing shoulders with experienced pro’s and in the full glare of the limelight.

Beadling settled down as proceedings wore on, but he needs to realise that he belongs in this company if he is to make grade.

The same applies to goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who flapped at a cross and then a corner early on.

When the bulk of the summer’s influx are yet to arrive, the young hopefuls must take every chance to impress.