YOU have to feel sorry for Kidderminster.
Almost 5,000 Midlanders will travel to the Stadium of Light tomorrow for the Conference outfit’s biggest game for 20 years, yet Wearside has barely given tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth round tie a second glance.
As the celebrations over an extraordinary evening at Old Trafford continue and thoughts turn to Wembley, it is Capital One – not FA – Cup fever which has gripped Sunderland supporters.
Even Gus Poyet has put tomorrow’s game down the pecking order by immediately confirming that he will change his entire team from the League Cup semi-final after their exertions over 120 minutes on Wednesday.
But how about a second trip to Wembley in this rollercoaster season?
If Sunderland avoid a banana skin tomorrow, it’s suddenly not such a long-shot, particularly as seven Premier League teams have already been knocked out of this year’s competition.
The acid test will be whether Poyet’s second string can grasp their opportunity and comfortably swat aside humble opposition.
Certainly, the Sunderland boss can call upon a strong side if he decides to name a completely new XI. For instance: Ustari, Celustka, Verini, Roberge, Dossena, Ba, Gardner, Larsson, Giaccherini, Watmore, Altidore.
There are Italian, Swedish, American, Argentine and Czech internationals in that team and, without being disrespectful to Kidderminster, there is more than enough to get past the non-league outfit, particularly as the visitors have lost third-round hero, Joe Lolley, to Huddersfield.
Far from being an unnecessary distraction in a hectic period of fixtures, the game will also provide a useful learning tool for Poyet.
For this week’s new arrivals, keeper Oscar Ustari and defender Santiago Vergini, it is the perfect introduction to English football.
After watching the Old Trafford euphoria from the bench, this is more like reality for the Argentine pair – a bitingly cold January afternoon against gritty opposition.
Poyet will be able to gauge the duo in a match situation, albeit Kidderminster are nothing like Premier League opposition, while those who haven’t been involved recently, the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini and Ondrej Celustka can also stake their claims.
One of the big plus points of the third round win over Carlisle, too, was the sight of substitutes El-Hadji Ba and Duncan Watmore both making an impression on their first-team debuts.
Poyet will surely call upon the Under-21 duo again tomorrow. This is the type of opportunity to blood them into the first-team environment which cannot be missed.
Fielding players with a point to prove is no bad thing either in a game like this.
If Poyet stuck with the same side who had experienced such lofty highs at Manchester United, there would be a distinct danger of an “After the lord mayor’s show” scenario.
But by shuffling the pack, it breeds a freshness into the side.
If that can send Sunderland through to the fifth round, then a double Wembley visit will suddenly become a genuine possibility.
Perhaps two cup runs will prove to be unnecessarily draining and damage Sunderland’s survival hopes.
But the Capital One Cup journey has had quite the opposite effect this season. The FA Cup may prove to be a welcome tonic too.
Verdict: Home win