NIALL QUINN says Sunderland’s pre-season preparations will hit a more “serious” note with their participation in the Barclays Asia Trophy, reports Chris Young from Hong Kong.
Sunderland play their opening game of the tournament here in Hong Kong tomorrow (kick-off 11am GMT) when they face Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-finals of the competition.
It will provide a far more testing encounter than the two behind-closed-doors games which Sunderland played during their training camp in Italy - the first of which was a 13-1 win against a local select XI.
Quinn, who arrived here in Hong Kong last night as part of his role as a Premier League ambassador, warns that Sunderland’s results over their two games in the tournament shouldn’t prompt hasty judgements on their prospects for the season ahead.
But the former Black Cats chairman says the competition will play a crucial role in fine-tuning the preparations of Di Canio’s side ahead of the top flight campaign.
Quinn told the Echo today: “It’s getting serious now. They went to Italy, did some physical work there and played a couple of games there.
“By the look of it, the first one (the 13-1) was Paolo’s mates against Sunderland!
“You have to go through games like that and now, when they’re playing against clubs like Spurs and Man City, you get the sense it’s real.
“They are not training to win this tournament. People shouldn’t think if they win it or do badly, it will affect their performances in the Premier League.
“But it’s an important step for them.
“They’re taking their place opposite a couple of great clubs and that should really set the scene up for a good start to the Premier League in general.”
Quinn will be working for Sky Sports as a commentator during the tournament and says he has already sampled the enthusiasm among local supporters to see three Premier League sides in action.
“There’s an amazing buzz in the air here,” added Quinn.
“It’s a great start ot the season for everybody, particularly for Sunderland playing in such a prestigious tournament.
“I’m lucky to be out doing a bit of commentary on it, soaking it all in.
“The organisation is great here, as is the enthusiasm of the local people.
“It’s a very prestigious tournament and it’s a wonderful start to Paolo Di Canio’s first full season at Sunderland.”