'I’ve never seen a game called off for what we had at half-time': Remembering Middlesbrough and Sunderland's abandoned pre-season friendly at the Riverside Stadium
"I’ve been in the game a long time and I’ve never seen a game called off for what we had at half-time.” Just like the 7,500 fans inside the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis couldn’t quite believe what he had just witnessed.
For Boro and Sunderland this should have been a chance to take a final look at some of their first-team players before the start of their respective 2018/19 campaigns.
Yet, through no fault of their own, things didn’t go according to plan, and what should have been a competitive friendly fixture descended into chaos.
It’s been three years since Sunderland’s meeting with Boro was abandoned at half-time due to torrential rain, thunder and lightning.
When the game was stopped, it was hard to believe that the players had arrived and warmed up at a ground basked in the sun, yet conditions quickly worsened once the game had kicked off.
While Sunderland’s Dylan McGeouch and Boro’s Adama Traore were forced off with injuries midway through the first half, Pulis and Black Cats boss Jack Ross will have been relieved there were no serious setbacks on an increasingly sodden pitch.
Ross was preparing for his first season in charge of the Wearsiders and the travelling fans of around 1,000 supporters were already singing the Scot’s name.
The Sunderland boss used the fixture to hand new signings Jerome Sinclair and Glenn Loovens their first starts for the club, while then 16-year-old Bali Mumba, Josh Maja and George Honeyman were also included in the starting XI.
Both sets of supporters were later offered a 50 per cent refund on their match tickets, while many tried to enjoy the unusual circumstances.
There were the accustomed cheers when the floodlights were knocked out at half-time and restored in a matter of minutes, as well as collective gasps when the lightning struck.
But while referee Ross Joyce attempted to bring the players back out for the second half, they were quickly ushered back into the tunnel as a decision was made to call the game off.
The surprised mood then turned to disappointment as fans were informed via a message on the stadium’s big screen that the game wouldn’t be restarting.
Far from your routine pre-season friendly.