SUNDERLAND’S senior squad might not have had much to celebrate this season, but the club’s Under-23 side will attempt to secure some European success when they compete in the final of the Premier League International Cup tomorrow night.
Elliott Dickman’s development team host Portuguese giants Porto, with more than 20,000 fans expected to take advantage of a free-ticket scheme to watch at the Stadium of Light.
Having already beaten Benfica, PSV Eindhoven, Athletic Bilbao and semi-final opponents, Norwich City, Sunderland will attempt to become the third winners of European club football’s most prestigious youth competition.
Manchester City and Villarreal are the previous champions, and while the Black Cats have already achieved a notable feat by making tomorrow’s final, the club’s youngsters are determined not to stop there.
The likes of George Honeyman, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Ethan Robson are set to be involved against Porto, and are hoping to create some club history as they look to further their claims for a place in next season’s first-team squad.
“It’s a great achievement from the lads to get to the final, and there’s a sense of pride from everyone in what we have achieved,” said Robson, who will skipper Sunderland tonight.
“Obviously, we’ll be a bit nervous, but we’ve a good game plan and we’ll be ready to go and get the win. To have so many fans there is absolutely brilliant, and we’re just really looking forward to the game now.”
Dickman is proud of his players’ efforts so far, and is looking forward to seeing how they handle tomorrow’s big-game atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.
A handful boast first-team experience, and the majority were involved in Sunderland’s matches in this season’s Checkatrade Trophy, but none will have experienced anything like what they will encounter tomorrow night.
“It is a new experience for us all, and they (the fans) will hopefully be looking at some stars of the future,” said Dickman. “It will be the biggest crowd some of the lads have played in front of, so that will be a learning curve in itself.
“The big thing from our side of things is to see them learn from it, and that we see improvements in whatever they do in the game. Hopefully, we can win it, but if we don’t, then there will be a lot of positives to take out of the game.”
The Stadium of Light ticket office will be open until 5pm tomorrow to distribute free tickets, but alternative turnstiles will also be in operation.