MARTIN O’Neill will make changes to his team for tomorrow’s FA Cup third round tie against Bolton Wanderers, writes Graeme Anderson.
But the Sunderland boss says that doesn’t mean he won’t be treating the competition seriously on the 40th anniversary of the club’s 1973 FA Cup triumph.
“Even if we had a full-size squad we’d be looking to making changes for the weekend,” he said today.
“You do have to look at managing your squad in such a busy period but for me it is still a very important game and one we want to win.
“I think it will be fair to say that in most people’s eyes it has lost some of its sheen because the Premier League is the be-all and end-all of everything these days.
“Major clubs prioritise other competitions now and so it has taken a little bit of a knocking.
“It’s still a great, great competition though, still one of the best.
“People still tune into the draw but at one point you were going to full grounds in the third round, now they’re maybe three-quarters full.
“It still has that aura that it had and to reach a final or semi-final would be awesome.
“Last season we reached the quarter-final and the atmosphere was something to behold.
“But you can just as easily be knocked out in the third round as you can be in the quarter-final.”
O’Neill wants to see Sunderland at least strive to emulate last year’s impressive cup run.
“Last year it was great for the club to reach the quarter-finals,” said the Sunderland manager.
“There were some great games in that run, some good days.
“And although the Everton game which ended it was a disappointment, it went hand-in-hand with our good league run and both runs helped each other I felt.
“I’d love to see something similar happen again this time but we know how hard it is going to be this weekend.
“You wouldn’t want to go to Bolton at this stage but we have to do it.
“They’ve had a tough old season this season but they are capable of pulling themselves together for a good second half of the campaign..
“I watched them against Leeds on a difficult surface but they gave as good as they got and they probably feel this FA Cup game is a respite from demanding league duties just as we do.”