Wahbi Khazri, Bryan Oviedo and Papy Djilobodji were among the players missing from Sunderland's 'official' first day back for pre-season training yesterday, While the former pair were excused because they're still with their World Cup squads, just what was the reason the latter wasn't back on Wearside for fitness testing?
Much like the first day back at school, the Black Cats players have begun assembling in front of new boss Jack Ross. First the Under-23 players reported for duty on Tuesday, and yesterday the first team began trooping back to the Academy of Light.
The squad will be put through their paces in the coming days as Sunderland's coaching and medical staff assess what they've got and put plans in place to prepare for the club's first third-tier campaign since the 1980s.
Plenty of the playing personnel who made an appearance yesterday are still expected to be on the move between now and the start of the season. With the transfer window closing in a little over six weeks, there will still be plenty of movement in and out of the Stadium of Light. Ross has already added a handful of new faces to the Sunderland ranks but there will be plenty more to follow. The likes of Lamine Kone, Joel Asoro, Lee Cattermole and George Honeyman have all been tipped with departures to clubs elsewhere.
Certainly Khazri and Oviedo were given an obvious pass to be absent due to completing their nation's final fixtures in the World Cup. Oviedo came though 90 minutes as Costa Rica were held to a 2-2 draw with Switzerland last night, and Khazri will complete his tournament with the Tunisia side later today against Panama. But they're not the only Sunderland-owned players supposedly out in Russia at present.
Defender Papy Djilobodji has also supposedly been at the World Cup despite not earning a call up to the Senegal side. The defender who signed for Sunderland from Chelsea in 2016 is thought to have been following his some-time international teammates in their campaign out in Russia. The Lions of Teranga take on Colombia this evening in a crunch clash between the pair hoping to qualify from Group H.
Djilobodji, who spent last season at FCO Dijon, is not duty-bound to report back at Sunderland until July 1st. That's due to his loan spell not officially coming to a close until the end of June. The 29-year-old has another two years left on his deal with the Black Cats and has been linked with another temporary move next season, this time to Turkish Super Lig side Trabzonspor.
He'll be back next week presumably and may be on the plane to Portugal next week for Sunderland's initial pre-season training camp before making the short trip to Darlington for the first summer warm-up game a week next Wednesday.