John O’Shea will tomorrow make a piece of Sunderland history if, or rather when, he leads out his side against West Bromwich Albion.
An O’Shea appearance at The Hawthorns would make him the Black Cats’ leading appearance-maker in the Premier League – but it’s points not records which will motivate him tomorrow.
The skipper reached number 174 last week, pulling level with friend and former defensive comrade, Phil Bardsley.
O’Shea, rested for the midweek FA Cup third round replay exit at Burnley, will almost certainly start against the Baggies.
“I’m on the same as Bardo,” said the ex-Manchester United centre-half. “It shows that the years I have been here I’ve been able to maintain a consistent level, stay fit, stay strong and be able to go out and perform for the team and for the club.
“When I come to the end of my career, it will be something I’ll be extremely proud of.”
The 35-year-old is proud of the service he has given on Wearside, but he’d prefer a result to help his side get out of the relegation zone rather than the plaudits for his longevity.
And, as a pillar of the defence, what better way to mark the feat than a clean sheet – O’Shea insists that is what the Black Cats need again and again in a bid to become a team which is hard to beat.
“It’s about the collective unit, us looking to keep clean sheets,” he said in an interview on www.safc.com.
“It’s great when the keeper and back four keep clean sheets, but it’s great for the whole team too.
“We know if we do that we are going to pick up points, that’s the basis we have to get back to.”
However, keeping a clean sheet at The Hawthorns is not going to be easy – only three clubs have pulled it off this season.
Sunderland are not in the best of form, while West Brom are smarting from a 4-0 thumping last weekend at Spurs, a result almost unheard of for a Tony Pulis team.
“It’s a tough game away from home, especially as West Brom lost their last game,” said the Republic of Ireland veteran. “Up to then they had been on a decent run of form – we know it’s going to be hard.
“But, more importantly, it’s about ourselves our own application and attitude.
“It’s about going away and being tough to beat and causing them problems.”
The Black Cats showed signs against Liverpool what they can produce, fighting back twice to draw 2-2 on January 2. However, O’Shea says while such spirit is applaudable points are just as vital a commodity.
“You want the performance but, ultimately, you want to win games,” he said. “It’s about results, getting points on the board
“We are away so we’ll probably have to expect them having more of the ball.
“But we have to be confident in our plan and hopefully a bit of the rub of the green goes our way too.
“You tend to get that if your work-rate and attitude are spot on.
“Everyone has to keep the belief – we’ve shown it in spells this season but we have to get that consistency and if we do, we can cause West Brom some problems.
“But we also know they’ll cause us problems and we’ll have to deal with that.
“West Brom have speed and power and there is a good balance in their team.
“They get their results via clean sheets and defending, but they score a lot of goals from set-pieces. We’ll have to be on our guard for that.”