Craig Liddle

Liddle pleased with preparations

by Stuart Vose

Youth coach ready for new season.

Craig Liddle is pleased with how his side are shaping up for the new campaign following a gruelling pre-season schedule.

Sunderland's under-18s kicked off their summer preparations with victories over Gateshead College, Preston and Hearts before travelling to a training camp in Holland where they faced Dutch sides NEC Breda and Roda JC ahead of a friendly tournament which included Krakow, Feyenoord and the Chile national side.

Performances, on the whole, have been decent

- Craig Liddle

And although Liddle feels his squad have a little way to go before Saturday's Barclays U18 Premier League opener against Southampton on Saturday, the former Darlington boss believes the trip to Europe was vital in welcoming the new additions to his squad, building fitness levels and team spirit.

"Holland was a worthwhile trip for the players, we got to know each other a little bit better than we had previously," said Liddle. "We were in each other's pockets for two weeks at times, but we got some valuable training exercises in and had a few games over there to work on. Overall, it was a pleasing two weeks.

"I know a lot more about every player than I did when I first came in, but I've still got a lot to learn regarding the boys and how they'll deal with certain things. But the two weeks has certainly given me a good insight into them not only as players but people as well which I feel is important for me to develop a bond with them.

"Performances on the whole were decent. There were some 40-minute, high intensity, quick games and we played five games in two days against teams who were predominantly a year older than us. The Chile national side were two years older than us, but the performances were good.

"We learned one or two things that we probably need to tighten up on before we go in to the first game against Southampton on Saturday. So overall it was pleasing, but there's still room for improvement."