With the summer sun bearing down on us, it means Newcastle Blue Star are getting back to work and although the start of their Northern League campaign is still three weeks away, pre-season preparations are already in full swing.
Those preparations have been focusing on not only putting faces new and old through their paces in training but also testing their fitness on the field of play. Percy Main have already acted as opponents to date but now a sterner test awaits after the weekend’s 4-1 away win.
A test that comes in the shape of Sunderland’s U21 side. Thismay not be a Tyne Wear derby in its truest form, but this is still a fixture that will be keenly anticipated by both sets of supporters in attendance.
The junior branch of the Black Cats usually ply their trade in the Professional Development League system – otherwise known as Premier League 2 and last season, their Division 2 results would eventually seem finish ninth out of 11 teams.
At the same time, their league placing is not the overriding factor when it comes to performance and as the name of their competition suggests, a huge part of the process is the development of the players themselves.
While when it comes to development, that is certainly what Brian Smith and his management team have been working on since their installation just over 12 months ago and after crafting a league and cup double last season, they will be keen to make further progress for 2023/24.
Progress that may well be observed at Scotswood this evening and although the outcome of the game will be of some importance, the maintaining of fitness levels and evidence of instructions being taken on board will be just as critical.
With this in mind, it could also serve as an opportunity for both teams to make wholesale changes throughout the game. Squad depth will be available from either camp, do not be surprised to see many players tested across the whole 90 minutes.
Regardless of the final score, a warm welcome goes out to the traveling Sunderland U21 team and support and for those who lend their voice to the home team, make sure to bring the noise throughout.