FOR Callum Johnson, Accrington Stanley’s clash with Sunderland on Saturday holds a bit of extra spice.

The Reds defender is a Middlesbrough fan and former Boro player who has played in plenty of north east derbies as a youngster coming through the ranks at the Riverside Stadium.

The 22-year-old will have his Boro supporting friends and family among a capacity crowd at the Wham Stadium for the contest and is relishing the opportunity to take on his local rivals.

“I can’t wait for it,” he said. “Sunderland is a massive club and are rivals with Middlesbrough and I remember playing against the from a young age coming through the Academy so I am looking forward to playing against the first team.

“I have played against Sunderland since I was seven or eight years old with the Academy at Middlesbrough. We always had some good games and some tough games against them.

“Sunderland is probably the biggest rival to Middlesbrough even though Newcastle is the bigger one for Sunderland.

“All my family and friends are all Boro fans so they will be looking out for me this weekend and hope I win!

“A few will be coming down to watch and are looking forward to it, just as I am.”

The League One clash is the first meeting between Stanley and Sunderland and will be played in front of a record Wham Stadium crowd of more than 5,000.

And Johnson is hoping John Coleman’s side can use that to their advantage.

“Playing in front of big crowds, especially at home, is what you want,” the full back added. “Obviously Sunderland have sold quite a few so it should be a good atmosphere.

“We will be concentrating on the fact that it is a league game with three points at stake just as any other game. Hopefully we will use the big crowd and the atmosphere to our favour and not let it work against us.”

The Reds are without a third tier victory in six games but head into the contest on the back of an FA Cup and Checkatrade Trophy victory - the latter achieved in midweek with a much-changed side.

And Johnson believes those two successes means there is plenty of belief in the camp ahead of facing a Black Cats outfit who have lost just once in the league this term.

“They have got some top players,” he said. “But the last two results will give the whole squad confidence and we will take that into the game on Saturday.

“The players who played on Tuesday played well and it shows the strength in depth we have and we will try and push on together.”