Cup fever still excites Martin O’Neill

Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill

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MARTIN O’Neill has promised Sunderland fans the club will take the FA Cup seriously tomorrow.

But he has warned supporters that overcoming Championship side Peterborough United at their London Road ground will be far from easy.

“These matches are always difficult,” he said.

“I remember taking an Aston Villa side to Gillingham a couple of years in the FA Cup and they gave us a really tough game.

“We managed to squeeze through by the odd goal in the end, but Villa had more than their fair share of England internationals, yet were still given the runaround for most of the afternoon.

“It just shows you what levellers these games are when they’re one-off encounters.”

O’Neill will today begin finalising his squad after seeing which players have successfully come through training, but he promises the thought of fielding a weakened side has not crossed his mind.

He said: “It never occurred to me either for the Man City and Wigan games, even though they were only a couple of days apart.

“I could have made a choice of fielding a weaker side against the league leaders and saved our strongest team for a more winnable game against Wigan.

“But I was thinking that the Wigan game could easily be called off because of the weather and then there’s the danger you look rather foolish.

“Of course the Premier League is our priority. Getting points on the board takes precedence over everything else.

“But I will still look to field a strong side against Peterborough because I think we will need to and because I want us to win the game.”

Sunderland had sold 2,300 tickets for the Cup tie yesterday afternoon and a late surge over the weekend could see away fans numbering close to the big support the Black Cats took to Wigan on Tuesday night, a noisy away support who thrilled to the 4-1 win which took the Wearsiders into the top half of the table.

O’Neill said: “The fans were terrific both at home against Man City and away to Wigan in what were two pretty emotional wins.

“And we want to do right by them too this weekend.

“We don’t just want to treat it as a day out, go out of the competition and then get on with the league.

“The supporters deserve us to give it our best shot against Peterborough and that’s what we’re going to do.”