Lee Johnson reveals where Sunderland's pre-season plans currently stand and where the squad could head on tour
Lee Johnson says Sunderland could be set for a trip north of the border ahead of the new League One season.
The Black Cats are currently planning their pre-season schedule, although that task is naturally complicated given the global situation with coronavirus.
And while that means it could yet be a while until the line-up of friendly fixtures is confirmed, Johnson and the club’s hierarchy have already had some initial discussions over what pre-season could look like.
Sunderland’s pre-season last year consisted of games against Gateshead, Harrogate Town and Carlisle United after pre-season plans had to be quickly thrown together by all clubs following the uncertain nature of the campaign.
This time around, clubs will have some more clarity and will be able to plan their preparations with slightly more clarity.
And the Sunderland head coach is considering a tour to Scotland, which he feels would allow some much-needed interaction with the club’s supporters.
It could allow Sunderland to fulfil a clause inserted in the deal which brought Ross Stewart to Wearside – which means a friendly at Ross County will have to be played in the coming years.
“It's difficult to know what to do for pre-season at the moment given the situation, but of course we have to do some planning,” said Johnson.
“We've talked about a few things, one of those being a visit to Scotland.
“One of the things I want is a bit of interaction with the fans, so I thought that if we went to Scotland we might take a few up there.
“At some point over the next couple of years, as part of the deal that brought Ross Stewart to us, we will play Ross County at their place and that will be a consideration.
“Saying that, I think their fixtures start early and given the amount of our players whose contracts expired, we have to get the right amount of people through the door to make it effective.”
Sunderland have twice travelled to Portugal for pre-season training camps since their drop into League One, but international travel restrictions mean that there is an added layer of complication when arranging overseas tours ahead of the 2021/22 season.
That will likely scupper any hopes of a trip to Johnson’s dream pre-season destination of Marbella – or a return to the rather less glamorous pitches of Latvia.
“Given a free hand, I'd go to Marbella,” admitted the Sunderland head coach.
"That's what I'd like to do because I think it's a great training camp, you get some great games, and the fans can enjoy it as well.
“I can't see that being an option this year, though, with travel restrictions and the Covid situation.
“I have to say, though, that the Bristol City fans always wanted me to take them back to Latvia - when my dad was manager of Latvia and then managed Bristol City, he took the team out there and I think the fans really loved it because the booze was cheap!”