Sunderland weighing up options for their unusual winter break next season

Sunderland are weighing up how best to manage an unusual winter break in their schedule next season.

Promotion to the Championship means that the Black Cats will pause for three weekends while the group stages of the World Cup in Qatar take place.

Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman had begun planning for the possibility before promotion was secured at Wembley, and that has stepped up since.

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Sunderland will likely have to play what would effectively be a pre-season friendly before returning to action, and the possibility of a training camp has also been explored.

Sunderland's Sporting Director Kristjaan Speakman

“Next season is going to be really interesting,” Speakman explained.

“We’ve got a really short closed season period of four-and-a-half weeks [this summer]. We’ve got a five-and-a-half week pre-season period, and then we’ve got this month off in November and December to navigate where the World Cup is going to be.

“We don’t have any games for three Saturdays so that is going to be a challenge for everyone. We will do our best to pre-plan anything that could go wrong and to be the best planned or best organised team in the league.

“It’s going to be really interesting how clubs go about things,” Speakman added.

“We’ll be in the same boat as everyone else in the Championship. None of the Championship teams have gone through that before and none of the players playing in there have had that.

“We’ve got a draft schedule around rest, team activity. Maybe it is a trip, then a build-up phase? Maybe it’s a bit of a mini condensed pre-season?

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“We’ve already got that process in place. That was one of the things we did a certain amount of work to. From [winning promotion], that has been let off the leash.”

As it stands, Sunderland are unlikely to have a major playing presence at the World Cup.

Bailey Wright, currently in talks over a new deal, helped secure Australia's place with a play-off win earlier this week.

Sunderland would also like to bring Everton forward Nathan Broadhead back to Wearside. Broadhead received his first Wales call-up as they secured their place through the play-offs, but had to withdraw through injury.