Belfast Telegraph

Hard work starts here - Henry

Martin O'Neill's Sunderland players will return for pre-season training next week having been warned they face one of the most important periods of the campaign.

Fitness coach Jim Henry will welcome the first-team squad back confident they will have looked after themselves during their summer break, but ready to get down to the hard work.

He told the club's official website, www.safc.com: "Pre-season is one of the most important phases that we are looking at."

He added: "Long gone are the days when players came back de-conditioned. There's far, far too much at stake for these boys.

"What you tend to find now, especially in the Premier League, is that the boys come back in good condition.

"We have programmes which we put in place over the summer, and it's vitally important the players keep mobile throughout the weeks they have off.

"Normally they come back in very good shape, and we then have a look at their body fat and weight and see if there are any changes.

"That quickly tells you whether the player has been doing their programme or not."

The Black Cats will carry out part of their preparations for the new Barclays Premier League season, which gets underway at Arsenal on August 18, in Korea, where they will play in the Peace Cup later this month.

On their return, they will travel to Hartlepool, Derby and Leicester for friendly games.

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