SUNDERLAND will kick off their pre-season preparations with a visit to Darlington at Heritage Park.

The Black Cats, who contested a friendly with Martin Gray's side during the season - which had to be abandoned owing to torrential rain - will return to Quakers' temporary home in Bishop Auckland on July 19, at 3pm, to help Darlington raise funds for their move to Blackwell Meadows.

Head coach Gus Poyet said: “I am absolutely delighted to be opening our pre-season schedule against Darlington. It is a historic club, with a loyal and passionate fan base, who have sadly endured some difficult times.

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"For us and our fans to be able to support them as they work to regain their professional league status is something that I’m very pleased about.

“I am sure our fans, as always, will turn out in numbers to give us their support but to also show solidarity to a local team that needs our help.”

Darlington manager Martin Gray, who started his playing career at Sunderland and counts former Black Cats Tony Norman and Brian Atkinson among his backroom staff, said: “It is a fantastic show of support from Sunderland and a real coup for us to welcome them in what will be the opening game of their pre-season.”

With a capacity at Heritage Park of just over 2,000 tickets will be limited. Supporters are also advised that the majority of the ground is standing, with only a very limited number of seats available.

Adults will be priced £12 and under 16s and over 60s £6, with ticket purchase information to be announced in due course.

Sunderland will visit Carlisle and Hartlepool United on July 22 and 23 respectively, before visiting Portugal for warm-weather training between July 28 and August 3.