MANAGER Bob Stokoe, who has already seen the senior and youth teams in action, will complete his tour of inspection of Sunderland’s playing strength under competitive conditions at Roker Park tomorrow night, when Sunderland Reserves are due to entertain Barnsley Reserves in a North Midlands League game.
And although several players who helped the youth team to a 4-1 win over Hull City in the league cup last night will be on duty again, it could still be a significant occasion, possible with a bearing upon team choice for Saturday’s visit to Portsmouth.
“We have no injuries from Saturday’s game,” Mr Stokoe told me, “but we will get together for discussions on a few points before we start the job of preparing for the Portsmouth game.
Mick McGiven, now back on the availability list again after completing a three-match suspension, and John Tones, who has met late calls as substitute in two of the last three games, could come into the reckoning for first team places on Saturday.
Decisions do not need to be hurried and Mr Stokoe will be keen to see how McGiven and Tones tackle the tasks he has in mind for them. Tomorrow night’s Reserve game gives him the chance of a preview and there is a clear target for both players.
Fratton Park is a favoured spot for Sunderland, who usually manage to perform well there. They could not produce better than a 2-2 draw there last year, when a last-minute goal by Dennis Tueart saved a game which they had dominated most of the time.
This time, they will be looking for a moral-boosting win to end a sequence of nine games in which they have played a lot of good football without being able to finish in front.
They can take encouragement from the fact that the effort which they produced against table-topping Burnley would probably have been good enough to see them through against teams like Portsmouth. If Mr Stokoe can build on that starting point, the turn for the better will not be far away.
Don Rankin, out of action since September 16, when he suffered damaged knee ligaments in a youth team game at Middlesbrough, resumed full-time training yesterday and appears to be well on his way back to full fitness.
The other youth team casualty Bobby Mitchell, will take a little longer. His injuries were more severe than Rankin’s, but daily sessions with club physiotherapist John Watters are helping him to build up and it may not be too long before he is ready to settle down to training again.
Story taken from the Sunderland Echo on December 5 1972.