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Sunderland's North American Odyssey gives little insight

Article by Jon Guy

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The definition of the word odyssey is “a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune”.

Those who spent their hard earned money on following The Lads from California to Canada I well imagine will spend the flight back to Newcastle Airport pondering exactly what they and the watching fans at home have learned about the potential of the team for the coming campaign.

I am a big fan of pre-season friendlies, in days gone by they had a relaxed feel and as a fan there was always the potential to have more interaction with the players than you get during the league campaign when the team are more regimented on and off the team bus before and after the games.

But they were the days when we played friendlies that you could actually get to. They were in Scotland, or against lower league clubs which gave you the chance to visit new grounds when the sun was shining, the pitches were green, and there wasn’t any of the aggravation that can blight some league games. (Although I remember a trip by Rangers and their fans to Roker Park a fair few years ago!!!).

I once went to see the reserves play a pre-season game against non-league side Purfleet as they were then known whose ground is a stone throw from the M25 and the Dartford Tunnel.

Those who went were able to sit in the stands with members of the squad who were not playing or had played the first half and were watching the second and there were a few of the first team there including Danny Dichio who was happy to talk about the team and the season to come.

However now the team head off to all four corners of the planet to enhance both the English Premier League brand and of course that of SAFC.

I found myself more by planning than luck in Hong Kong a few years ago when we played in the Barclays Asia Tournament. We beat Tottenham in torrential rain and then lost 1-0 to Manchester City in the “final” and we looked to be playing well.

However, little did we know what was to come under Paulo Di Canio in the following three months.

So defeats against two sides that could be best described as Conference standard s and then a come from behind win against Toronto, albeit a team that used a number of its youngsters in the game was all we have to show for the business on the pitch. Three of the new signings flew out to meet up with the squad but played no part in the action so fans will be hoping we can see what they have to offer when we face Doncaster next week.

Dick Advocaat said the aim of the two week trip was to get the team fit and as such they have been training twice a day and he acknowledges that as a result they looked heavy legged in the first two games and a little better in Canada.

We know that the aim of pre-season is to blow off the cobwebs and sort out the pattern of play. They say that the results in pre-season do not count for anything but I defy any fan to say they go to any one of their team’s matches and don’t care if they lose.

I hope those who made the trip to North America had a great time and I am sure they were once again true ambassadors for this amazing club. English football is now a global brand and maybe I am being a little too selfish to hark back to those good old days as there are Sunderland fans across the world who deserve a chance to see The Lads in the flesh.

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