SUNDERLAND will mean business when they go into tonight’s testimonial game at Hartlepool, says boss Steve Bruce.
The Black Cats boss is well aware that, from a home point of view, this evening’s game is all about Ritchie Humphreys’ 10 years at the club.
But from Sunderland’s perspective it is all about producing their best possible performance as the new Premier League season looms.
Bruce has split his first-team squad in two to maximise their time on the pitch, with half lining up at Victoria Park tonight and the remainder joining the reserves for tomorrow’s encounter at Darlington.
Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown, Lee Cattermole, Jack Colback Ahmed Elmohamady, Anton Ferdinand, Asamoah Gyan, Seb Larsson, Simon Mignolet, Kieran Richardson and Stephane Sessegnon will feature against Pools tonight.
Titus Bramble, Craig Gardner, Steed Malbranque, Ji Dong-won, Michael Turner, David Vaughan, Keiren Westwood and Connor Wickham will then travel to the Darlington Arena tomorrow (kick-off 7.45pm).
After the disappointment of losing the friendly at Burnley at the weekend, the manager (right) is looking for a much-improved performance tonight.
“I’ll be looking for as good a display as we can produce against Hartlepool,” said Bruce.
“It’s a special occasion night for Hartlepool with it being a testimonial but I have to warn them that we’ll be approaching the game very much as a competitive fixture.
“We’re looking at stepping it up a notch in these last couple of games.
“I’ve got no worries about how things are going in pre-season, in fact I’m very pleased because there’s a lot of good work being done and we can see it all slowly coming together.
“The aim is always to get it right for the start of the season rather than a month before the season starts. But in these last couple of games I’m looking for those positive signs to start coming together.”