Algarve Diary: Late arrivals, The Strip and things can only get better

First published in Sport
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Football/Golf Writer

BY the time most Sunderland fans arrived in Portugal, Gustavo Poyet’s first team squad had already had a few days training behind them – but the supporters are not the only late arrivals out here.

After Saturday’s friendly at Boston, Poyet decided to fly out the younger generation of the Black Cats squad and all of them will feature in tonight’s opening friendly with Recreativo del Huelva.

The likes of Mikael Mandron, Carl Lawson, Andrew Cartwright and Co have earned the sojourn to the Algarve for impressive cameo performances during pre-season so far and Poyet wants to take a further look at them.

No matter how many extra bodies Sunderland have to call on over here now though following the arrival of ten members of the development squad, there remains a few notable absentees.

Poyet has clearly made up his mind on four players not being involved in his squad for the Premier League this season. Danny Graham, despite scoring against Boston, Modibo Diakite, Cabral and David Moberg Karlsson are all still on Wearside.

Ideally Poyet will move them on, Sunderland are trying, but nothing has come of tentative interest so far in Diakite from Fiorentina and a host of Championship clubs in Danny Graham.

THE travelling Sunderland party are not based in Albufeira, where all three friendlies take place at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira – but the majority of fans are.

It is estimated around 800-1,000 Black Cats fans will be out here over the course of the week and a big chunk of those are already here for the start.

After sampling the finest Brazilian barbecue Albufeira had to offer on Monday night, a little walk along the Strip was called for. The Strip is Albufeira’s equivalent of a night out in Blackpool – only without the slot machines!

THAT’S where the two Sunderland lads at our hotel were heading to find after jetting in from Leeds-Bradford airport early on Tuesday morning.

Daniel Woolston, from Roker, Matthew McConnell , from Seaburn, had got up at 3am to drive down to Yorkshire to catch a flight – and went straight to the stadium to get their match tickets for the first two games.

Apparently they’re going to find a karaoke bar to belt out one of last season’s fans favourites, D:Ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. “That’s what I sang the last time with Martin Smith (the former Sunderland player) in Sinatras in Sunderland,” said Daniel. And Matthew added: “We might just do that later.”

Daniel’s younger brother Paul, who hails from Washington, is actually a goalkeeper at Newcastle’s academy. He earned praise in March as a 15-year-old from Alan Pardew for turning in a fine display to defeat Manchester United 1-0 at Whitley Park.

The elder of the two brothers will hope Paul one day pull on a Sunderland shirt.

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