SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Connolly ups fitness, Delap in Stoke talks

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

CONNOLLY STEPS UP FITNESS:

Cats play practice match

DAVID CONNOLLY steps up his match fitness today in a behind-closed-doors game against Middlesbrough Reserves.

 The Irish striker is making his way back from a hamstring injury sustained in the win against Leeds United last month.

 And today’s friendly at Boro’s Hurworth training ground is a welcome opportunity for him to improve his fitness.

 Connolly was on the bench for Sunderland’s last game, the 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.

 But he needs match practice and manager Roy Keane today told the Echo: “David will be involved in the game and it should do him a lot of good.

 “He made a quicker recovery than we expected from his injury but he was quite short of games even before he joined us. And being involved today will be a help.”

 Keane himself made the trip down to the game looking to run the rule over players still trying to impress.

 He said: “It’s good to get these sort of games. I went to the game against Liverpool Reserves at Eppleton and enjoyed it.

 “It was a good atmosphere and a good display and I was able to learn a little more about my players in a match situation.

 “You can do all the training in the world and of course that’s important, but it’s playing games when you really see what players are about.”

DELAP IN TALKS WITH STOKE OVER TRANSFER:

ROY KEANE today confirmed that he is prepared to let Rory Delap leave Sunderland.

 But he told the Echo that we was in the dark as to whether a move would actually to through.

 He said: “Rory has been speaking to Stoke City about a move there. We’ve given our permission for him to have talks.

 “But we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out in terms of the move going through. I know Rory’s agent is involved in talks and naturally he’s looking for the best deal he can get for the player.

 “That is as you would expect and we as a club just have to wait and see what happens and take it from there.”

 Delap may not be the only one heading out of the Stadium of Light in the next few days.

 While Keane regards squad strength as a vital to Sunderland’s cause this season, he also knows there are players who are unlikely to feature in the foreseeable future.

 And anyone who is not in his immediate plans could well be offered a chance to play games elsewhere.

 He said: One or two more players could be on their way. And that could happen by the end of the week. But as with Rory, I’m reluctant to say too much because you never know until they are past the post whether deals will go ahead.”