TODAY has been spent, largely, away from Albufeira, watching how Gustavo Poyet puts his players through their paces in the Algarve sunshine.
Poyet has still got his men doing double sessions over here and, by invitation, we got a chance to watch the morning one, which started at 9.15am to avoid them running around in the hottest part of the day. The evening sessions have taken place at 6pm.
It took around 40 minutes to get to the training base and hotel on the outskirts of Portimao and the club would have preferred to have held an open session for fans to go along and watch but the facilities could not have coped.
The pitch was perfect – far superior to the one they are playing matches on at the Estadio Municipal de Albufeira – but there is little room for manoeuvre around the perimeter, although a few of the complex’s guests had gone along to take a glimpse.
There was some light running to start, followed by some shooting drills and then a game, while it was Costel Pantilimon’s turn to get some one-on-one coaching at the other end. Every time the ball came my way, I wanted to try a rainbow flick but thought better of it.
But Steven Fletcher did produce a moment of magic. During the training match Fletcher converted a stunning scissor kick and it drew applause from the coaching staff, reminiscent of Poyet’s stunning goal for Chelsea in a 4-0 win over Sunderland in August 1999.
“Woah .... Fletch,” Poyet shouted. “What a goal ... but you’re ten years too late, somebody else already scored one of those!”
AWAY from the training ground, Sunderland’s hotel has three golf courses and given the number of golfers in the squad it’s safe to assume they have been out on them.
The spare time they have in the afternoon means they can hit the fairways, but it’s hard to imagine they have much energy for a full 18 holes after running around with a ball for 90 minutes twice a day.
More likely is some sun-bathing by the pool to top up their tans from their summer holidays or a snooze on the afternoon in the room. Based on the state of my sun-burn, I’d probably have to opt for the latter!
INCREDIBLY, while I waited around for a couple of players after training, I saw a familiar face, who will be heading for County Durham in a couple of weeks time.
Andy Stubbs, the managing director of the European Senior Tour, will be at Rockliffe Hall on August Bank Holiday weekend for the return of the English Senior Open, so it was pretty appropriate that he was at such a stunning golf complex in the Algarve.
Given the ability of some of the golfers in the Sunderland squad, like one-handicapper Lee Cattermole, Stubbs should take a look at some of the footballers in action around the greens while they are here. He might have a few new additions to his Tour – albeit in 20 or 30 years time!
BASED on speaking to a number of fans out here, it seems there’s quite a few of them going home and giving Saturday’s final friendly with Vitoria Setubal a miss.
Most of them were still around on Thursday, albeit with a few sore heads, and that Billy Jones song can still be heard.