Ross Stewart's message to Sunderland fans, senior players absent and other open training session takeaways

Around 3,000 Sunderland supporters enjoyed Sunderland’s open training session in the Spring sunshine at the Stadium of Light – with the Black Cats’ depleted squad preparing for Friday’s fixture against Hull.
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Only 14 outfield players were out on the grass as head coach Tony Mowbray continues to deal with several injury setbacks ahead of the final seven games of the campaign.

First-team players absent

Due to the under-21s fixture against Nottingham Forest on Monday evening, there was also a shortage of academy players involved in the session.

Sunderland's open training session at the Stadium of Light. Photo: Stu NortonSunderland's open training session at the Stadium of Light. Photo: Stu Norton
Sunderland's open training session at the Stadium of Light. Photo: Stu Norton
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Niall Huggins and Joe Anderson were both pencilled in to start against Forest at Eppleton CW and were therefore absent from first-team proceedings.

There was also no sign of Dennis Cirkin, who has recently recovered from a concussion injury but came off the bench against Burnley on Friday.

Alex Pritchard was the other notable absentee, after playing 76 minutes in the goalless draw at Turf Moor on Friday night, but was in attendance to sign autographs for fans after the event.

The one academy player who was involved was 20-year-old winger Michael Spellman, who is on loan at National League North club Blyth Spartans but continues to train with Sunderland.

Corry Evans eye on proceedings

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Sunderland captain Corry Evans was also present and to sign autographs for fans after the training session.

The 32-year-old midfielder is set to miss the rest of the campaign due to an ACL injury but is still having a big influence in the dressing room at the Academy of Light.

“He’s in the changing room and still has an influence,” Sunderland team-mate Luke O’Nien told the Echo when discussing Evans’ role last month.

“He’s still our skipper and has an impact from the sidelines. He’s still a big presence in the changing room, you ask him about the game and he’ll give us feedback and it will help you.”

Ross Stewart’s message to fans

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Fans were also able to see Sunderland’s top scorer Ross Stewart when the players had finished training.

It’s hoped the striker will be available to return in time for pre-season after suffering an Achilles injury back in January.

Stewart repeated that aim when asked by supporters how his recovery was going.

After signing several autographs at the side of the Stadium of Light pitch, fans will hope the forward signs a long-term contract on Wearside – with just over a year left on his current deal.

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O’Nien and Ekwah left on the floor

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Due to the number of injuries, Sunderland can’t afford many more injury setbacks in the final weeks of the season.

There was a brief scare during one of the passing drills, though, as O’Nien and Pierre Ekwah were left on the floor following a collision with Danny Batth.

The drill was temporarily stopped before the pair got back to their feet, with O’Nien jokingly blaming Batth and the collision.

Lynden Gooch full of confidence

After returning to Sunderland’s starting XI and being named man of the match at Burnley, Lynden Gooch appears full of confidence again.

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The 27-year-old had a beaming smile on his face after scoring with an excellent curling strike into the top corner during a shooting drill.

Gooch’s return from a knee injury has come at a timely moment of the season.