Whilst too much can’t be read into pre-season results, it was certainly a forgettable pre-season for Martin O’Neill’s side if nothing else, losing four of their six warm-up matches and more worryingly, scoring just four goals.
There can be no surprise in the fact that O’Neill is prepared to splash the inordinate sum of £15m on Steven Fletcher when his current crop of strikers are so goal-shy.
Whilst three of the most senior forwards at the club did score in the 3-2 win over FC Groningen during at the Peace Cup, the only other goal-scorer during pre-season was James McClean during the 1-1 draw at Pride Park five days ago.
Pre-season this year started in South Korea, with the annual Peace Cup tournament. With a young squad travelling to Asia due to the international exploits of the Irish contingent and other internationals, Sunderland went down 1-0 to Seongnam.
That disappointment was followed up with the only victory of pre-season, a 3-2 win over Dutch Eredivisie side, FC Groningen. In a competitive third/fourth place clash, Sunderland came out on top thanks to goals from Connor Wickham, Fraizer Campbell and a stunner from young Ryan Noble.
Sunderland returned to England and specifically the North East five days later when they travelled to local League One side, Hartlepool United.
‘Pools named a strong side which include Mag’s fan Steve Howard up front. Almost predictably, the the 36 year-old Durham-born targetman got the only goal in a 1-0 win for Neale Cooper’s side.
The Black Cats were back on their travels once more following that humbling, heading to Helsingborgs, Sweden, the former club of legendary Celtic striker Henrik Larsson.
The visitors drew a blank once more, going down 2-0 to the Scandinavian outit.
Four days later O’Neill’s side headed to the Midlands to take on Nigel Clough’ Derby County of the Championship.
McClean put the Black Cats ahead after 71 minutes, however a rare goal from former Nottingham Forest forward Nathan Tyson secured a point at the death for the Rams.
Finally, on August 11, Sunderland rounded off their pre-season preparations by heading to the King Power Stadium, formerly the Walkers Stadium, home of Leicester City – one of O’Neill’s previous employers and a club where he enjoyed great success.
Unfortunately it was to be yet another humbling for the gaffer as his side went down 1-0 thanks to a second-half winner from Foxes youngster, Tom Parkes.
Speaking to The Sunderland Echo, O’Neill was bullish about his side’s pre-season, suggesting that he isn’t too concerned but that a striker is top of his wish list:
“We haven`t scored too many goals in pre-season, but that problem existed before we started and it`s something we hope to rectify in the next few weeks,’ Said O’Neill.
“For me now, watching the DVDs of the games, I`m not too concerned about pre-season.
“But if we had won two or three of the games would that have hidden things? I don`t think so.’
Sunderland now head to the Emirates Stadium and Arsenal in just five days time. Will a new forward be in place by then or not? That’s the question on the lips of all SAFC supporters right now.