Despite being neighbours and – ultimately – colleagues, the Foundation of Light’s Sunderland scholars insist they will treat Friday’s derby against the FoL’s Shildon side as “just another game.”
They plan to go all out for a victory which would take them back to the top of the FA National Football Youth League.
The FoL’s Sunderland-based team lie just one point behind leaders Coventry City FC (WAR) iwith a game in hand heading into Friday’s clash.
Meanwhile, the FoL’s Shildon scholars sit fifth after a recent unbeaten league run, but could only draw 2-2 last week against bottom side Burnley FC B.
But Sunderland Scholars captain and top goalscorer Aaron Duell insists his side will not be distracted by the expectation ahead of the all-FoL contest at Shildon AFC’s Dean Street ground.
“For the lads it’s no different to us – it’s just another game,” said Duell. “We try our best in every game we play.
“Because that’s all it is. There’s no rivalry between us, we all know each other.
“And with people saying it’s a derby, we’ll just treat it as another game, and hopefully when the lads come out it’s three points.”
While the Sunderland scholars are unbeaten in the league all season, scoring 35 goals along the way, their Shildon counterparts have been left frustrated by that stalemate against Burnley B and elimination from the League Cup by Barnet.
But Sunderland scholars midfielder Arron Thompson still expects a tough encounter at Dean Street.
“I think there’s a little bit of expectation towards this game, but the lads are focused and up for it,” said Thompson.
“All the boys are looking forward to it, focused and we’ve had a good preparation [leading] up to the game.
“It’s just another game for us – just the same as when we play anyone else. We’re just going to go down there as a team and get the three points.”
Sunderland scholars’ assistant coach Jamie Chandler admitted the set up of the team will remain unchanged for Friday’s derby.
“Playing wise, nothing changes for us,” said Chandler. “We’re looking to prepare exactly the same – it’s important that we get to the top of the league again.”
Ex-Black Cat Chandler also praised the team’s character and feels their togetherness will be key to returning to the top of the table.
“We spoke about it a few weeks ago; the boys have really inherited a winning habit. They come in everyday and give us 100%.
“You might have seen one or two tasty challenges [in training], but you’ll always see them pick each other up after.
“They’re a hard but a fair group.
“It’s another game for us to get three points and get back to where we think we deserve to be.”