SUNDERLAND’S pre-derby preparations have been given a boost this week by the easing of the wintry weather.
The Black Cats’ training schedule has been badly disrupted for the last two months, giving the coaching and fitness staff a real headache.
But this week’s milder weather has allowed the club to get in useful training sessions and prepare well for Sunday’s crunch noon showdown against their local rivals.
Manager Steve Bruce told the Echo: “It’s good news on the training front because the last seven weeks we’ve barely been able to train properly at all.
“It has been a nightmare, with frozen pitches unplayable and there’s no denying that it has been far from ideal.
“We’ve looked for indoor training facilities across the region, wherever we could find them.
“And sometimes we’ve trained on the Stadium of Light pitch because it has been the only option.
“The sooner we get the proper training facilities for when the weather is bad, the better.
“It’s something we are addressing for the future, but, for the moment, it’s just a relief that we’ve been able to train as normal this week.”
Last season during a bad spell of winter weather, Bruce took the players off to Portugal for winter sunshine training.
This time he has not gone down that route, instead trying to use a succession of local training venues, making plans day by day and starting sessions an hour later than normal to allow ground thaw.
With normal training resuming this week though, Sunderland have been able to focus fully on getting sharp for the game against Newcastle and Bruce has been pleased with how it has gone.
He said: “There’s been a real snap and edge in training, so much so that occasionally we’ve had to have a word with the players just to take it down a level because we don’t want to leave our best football on the training pitch and we don’t want any more injuries.
“But the better conditions have definitely been a bit of a bonus because it’s allowed us better training sessions and better run outs for injured players.
“With a bit of luck, the worst of the weather is behind us and we can start training day in, day out like a Premier League club should and be able to work more freely on the injured players with a view to having all but the long term injured back by the end of the month.”