FORMER Sunderland midfielder Graham Kavanagh admits it will be a “proud moment” when he returns to the Stadium of Light as Carlisle boss.
The League One Cumbrians will head to Wearside next month after being handed a plum draw in the third round of the FA Cup.
Kavanagh, who was appointed as Carlisle manager in September, endured an injury-hit spell with Sunderland after becoming one of Roy Keane’s first signings in the summer of 2006.
But the 40-year-old, who made just 15 first-team appearances for the Black Cats, insists he has retained his affection for the club.
“On a personal level it’s great for me,” he said.
“I still live over that way and Sunderland is a club I have close to my heart.
“I still look out for their results and a lot of my friends are Mackems.
“I got a whole load of text messages within minutes of the draw coming through so there’s definitely a lot of interest.
“It will be a proud moment when I’m stood in the dug out and waiting for kick off.
“It’s a wonderful venue and the fans were unbelievable with me when I was there.
“I didn’t play as regularly as I would have liked because I picked up an injury about six months into it, but they were top drawer whenever I pulled the shirt on.
“Having said all of that, I’m going there to try to win. It’s not just about enjoying the experience, it’s about trying to do our job and get our club through to the next round.”
Carlisle, who have ex-Sunderland defender Pascal Chimbonda and academy product Liam Noble in their ranks, triumphed over League One high-fliers Brentford in last weekend’s second round tie and Kavanagh believes an upset is possible against the Premier League’s bottom club.
“The chances of us winning are probably slim but it’s about what we do on the day,” added the former Republic of Ireland international.
“It’s the FA Cup and it throws up all kinds of surprises every year. There’s no reason why we can’t be one of them.
“I think our players will relish the environment and we have a number of Sunderland and Newcastle fans in the dressing room who will be looking forward to it for their own reasons.
“Games like this are a chance to put the club on the map.
“If you go there and get a win then people up and down the length of the country talk about it. All I ask is that people get behind us and support what we’re trying to do.
“If this game is the one which sparks more interest then we will certainly try to put on a performance which makes us all feel very proud.”