Sunderland vs Hartlepool Preview: Local rivals clash in pre-season opener

The Black Cats travel down the road to Hartlepool as they look to get some minutes under the belt in time for the new season.

Sunderland vs Hartlepool Preview: Local rivals clash in pre-season opener
Allardyce has missed some training sessions in the build up to this match. Photo source: ChronicleLive

Sunderland are preparing to travel to Victoria Park as they get their pre-season started at Hartlepool United

With the reserve team in action tonight, it will be interesting to see how Sam Allardyce's men line up in their opening friendly.

The squad

As mentioned, Sunderland's under-21 side were up against Darlington tonight, with players such as Jordi Gomez, Liam Bridcutt and Adam Matthews all included in the squad. 

This means Allardyce may be looking to give some of the key players a run out in order to boost their fitness before the start of the 2016/17 season. 

The Sunderland manager recently stated he wanted the youngsters at the club to fight for their places in the team and this may be their chance. Players like Duncan Watmore, Jordan Pickford and Rees Greenwood can stake their claim with a solid performance.

Will Greenwood get a chance to prove his worth once again? Photo Source: Chronicle Live
Will Greenwood get a chance to prove his worth once again? Photo Source: Chronicle Live

The history

Despite being close geographically, it is no secret that the two teams are very far apart when it comes to footballing ability. Hartlepool were in danger of being relegated from League Two before Craig Hignett replaced Ronnie Moore halfway through last season.

The two clubs have only met twice competitively over the years, with those matches coming 16 years apart. Hartlepool recorded a 1-0 win over the Black Cats back in 1988, in what was known as the Sherpa Vans Trophy. 

Sunderland beat the Pools 1-0 in the FA Cup back in 2004; with Julio Arca grabbing the only goal.

Allardyce uncertainty

Sunderland's preparation could have been better leading up to this game. Manager Allardyce has been in talks with the FA over the vacant England position and has had to miss most of Sunderland's training sessions over the past week. 

Big Sam was spotted at the reserve game tonight and he is set to be in the dugout tomorrow, which will be a boost for the team.

Some players, however, may not feel inclined to give 100% if they think there is a chance that a new manager will be coming into the club before the season begins.