Argus Talking Sport: Match practice is top priority for Sunderland now

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AS Sunderland begin the task of playing themselves back to match fitness, following the break enforced by the outbreak of flu, Manager Bob Stokoe is putting emphasis upon match practice. “We had a good work-out yesterday, another today, and I am hoping that we can fix a private game with Darlington for tomorrow,” he said.

Darlington, who have also been postponing games because of a flu outbreak within the club, welcome the idea of gaining match practice in this manner and it looks as though both clubs will be able to extract maximum advantage from a private game.

Mr Stokoe was so determined to have a serious trial of strength for his players that if he had not been able to arrange a private game for tomorrow against either Darlington or Hartlepool, he was going to field his first team against York City Reserves tomorrow night in a North Midlands League Cup (Second Round) tie.

This will not now be necessary and there is no more relieved body of people than the Sunderland Reserves side. They too, have been side-lined through the flu epidemic and are just as anxious to get back into action. They have not played since their 2–1 home win over Barnsley on December 6 and are looking forward to a winning return to duty tomorrow night. The prospect of having to go along to the game in the role of spectators cannot have been too pleasing for them.

First team captain Bobby Kerr, who worked through yesterday’s practice session without any ill-effects, was in today’s game when he reported this morning with pains in the back.

Yesterday’s game was not thought to be responsible for his condition, but as a precautionary measure he was sent to hospital for an x-ray examination.

“I don’t think there is going to be any doubt about him being fit for the week-end, but we’re just making sure,” said Mr Stokoe.

There will be no immediate action as a result of Mr Stokoe’s visit to Scotland yesterday, accompanied by club scout Mr Charlie Ferguson. “This was just a follow-up that had to be done,” he said. “It rests there for the moment.

Later today the Sunderland manager will know whether he is in a position to go into action in the transfer market. He was looking for a go-ahead during a lunch-time discussion with his chairman and directors.

Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on January 2 1973.