Sunderland first-team assistant coach, Robbie Stockdale has praised the club's involvement in the newly-formatted Checkatrade Trophy, ahead of the Black Cats trip for their first competitive meeting with League One side Rochdale AFC.
A good experience
There have been sizeable changes to the competition - formerly known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy - with the biggest being the involvement of select Premier League clubs, as their under-23 sides taking part for the first time.
Stockdale will lead the team, along with usual under-23 coach Andy Welsh, into Group F which includes Notts County and local rivals Hartlepool United. Stockdale believes that the competition will be a good experience for the club's young players.
“It’s an exciting tournament and competition-wise it is what the players at that level are craving,” Stockdale told safc.com. He added, "We’ll treat it like any other competition and we want to go as far as we can."
Stockdale also commented, "In terms of the benefits our young players will play against senior pros and to actually have something at the end of the tournament – a final – will add a real edge you don’t get with friendly games.”
Tuesday's game will also see the return of some familiar faces, as the senior side begins to ease some of their players from a long injury list, back into the swing of things.
The return that will excite fans most is the return of midfielder Jan Kirchhoff, who has yet to appear this season due to a hamstring injury, and with the restart of the Premier League less than a week away, Stockdale said that a few senior players could see a run out at the Crown Oil Arena.
“We’re looking at some game time for big Kirchhoff,” revealed Stockdale. “I’m just checking on another two senior players later today to see if they’re ready to go," as he admitted to the club's site "It will be a mixed squad.”
Stockdale explained, “We have some extra time due to our next game being on a Monday night and the training group hasn’t been large this week with players on international duty." He concluded, “Fingers crossed they return unscathed and the like I said we have an extra couple of days to prepare for the Everton game.”
Sunderland will take on Rochdale in the Checkatrade Trophy at Crown Oil Arena on Tuesday, September 6 with kick-off at 7:45pm BST.