THIS trip to Albufeira will have brought back memories of previous trips for many of Sunderland’s fans during previous pre-season.

Roy Keane was in charge in 2008 when the Black Cats played two games at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira and Steve Bruce took his players to this part of the Algarve two years later.

This time around it’s Gustavo Poyet’s turn and he is no stranger to a small venue with just one stand either. Poyet was in charge of Brighton when they faced Sunderland under Bruce so he will have known what to expect.

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What his players might not have been prepared for is being sat directly behind the hundreds of Sunderland fans who turned up to watch the opening friendly with Recreativo de Huelva on Tuesday night.

If the Sunderland fans were slightly annoyed to have found out they were watching the club’s development team play the opener, their disappointment was eased by the fun they had had singing songs to each player throughout the course of the night.

There were a few uncomfortable moments, when Jozy Altidore struggled to raise a smile when the fans chanted for one from him. He did wave, having had to deal with being reminded of his problems in front of goal last season.

BUT the biggest cheer of the night was when Costel Pantilimon fell off his chair!

The giant 6ft 8in goalkeeper, signed from Manchester City and the tallest player in the Premier League, was too much for the plastic chairs all the players were seated on in the directors’ box.

One of the legs snapped (not his), cue the best song of the night: “Costel Pantilimon, he breaks what he wants.” As fans and players laughed at him as he rose back to his feet.

Poyet flew over ten members of the development squad to make up numbers on Monday, he is rumoured to have requested a specially made chair is flown in for Sunderland’s Mr Big.

FANS from all over the North-East have travelled to Portugal to watch Sunderland –and one man already here has persuaded his wife to stay out for a few extra days to catch the action.

The chairman of Bedale branch of the Sunderland Supporters’ Association, Martyn Coombs, had a holiday booked with his wife, Lynn, in the Algarve before news of his beloved club’s triple header was confirmed.

The North Yorkshire couple had been here ten days when they decided to extend it so Martyn could watch the Recreativo and CD Nacional matches.  He had his St George’s Flag, bearing Bedale SAFCSA words on it too.

“That flags no stranger to The Northern Echo,” said Coombs, 59. “There was a photo of it in the Echo when we had it at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the Fifth Ashes Test ... that was a whitewash, so it’s nice that we’ve already won one here!”