SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Keane has full faith in players

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago.

ROY KEANE says he knows Sunderland are the team everyone wants to beat in the Championship promotion race.

But he says he has full confidence in his players’ ability to deliver the goods.

The Black Cats boss said: “I suppose we are the team that everyone is looking at because we have gone on such a long unbeaten run.

“When you come up through the pack in the way that we have – unbeaten this year – people tend to sit up and take notice.

“That can bring its own pressure. But I’ve got no worries whatsoever.

“All I do is look at my players in training and this week I have to say they have been great. There’s been a great desire among them.

“There’s excellent competition in training and you can sense that they can’t wait for the games to come around.

“They just want to get on with it and that attitude gives me a lot of confidence. I’ve got great faith in them.”

The squad returned to training this week after a fortnight’s break to accommodate international games.

And Keane believes that the break could not have come at a better time.

He said: “Normally, you wouldn’t want a break when you are in the middle of a good run. But I just sensed that the players were getting a little tired and jaded just before the break came.

“We’ve been under a lot of pressure for a long time because we were trying to catch up with the leading teams and that means that every game had the feel of a must win game.  

“The lads have done brilliantly but I thought there were signs that the strain was beginning to tell.

“Now they’ve come back looking really refreshed and eager to get on with the job and that is exactly what I hoped for.

“You can never predict the outcome of a football match and Cardiff will be a tough game.

“It might be that our unbeaten run comes to an end there because anything can happen in a football match.

“But at this moment in time I know that the attitude of the players is great and as long as that’s the case you’ll always have a chance.”

READY FOR ANYTHING

Grant fired up for hostile Cardiff

GRANT Leadbitter says Sunderland will have to overcome Cardiff’s hostile backing on Saturday as well as the Welsh side itself.

The Sunderland midfielder is only too well aware that any trip to Ninian Park involved coping with some of the most hostile fans in the game.

But he says the attitude among the players at the training ground has been great.

“It’s been good to get back into training this week and we’re all looking forward to this weekend’s game,” he said.

“But no-one’s kidding themselves that it’s going to be a stroll in the park.

“Everyone knows how difficult a place it is to go and get points from.

“It’s a ground where the terraces are very close to the pitch and the fans are right on top of you.

“You can’t underestimate the influence of the crowd and I bet they’ve been great for Cardiff this season.

“They’ve got a reputation for really giving opposition sides some stick and it’s a reputation that’s well deserved.

“I’ve never played in a game down there but I’ve been part of a squad that’s played there and I’ve seen how intimidating they can be.

“We’ll have to make sure that we just do our jobs and don’t let the crowd bother us.

“That side of things is part and parcel of the game and we just have to get on with it.”

Leadbitter knows that even without their fervent home support, the Bluebirds – long-time Championship leaders earlier in the campaign – would be formidable opponents.

He said: “We’re approaching the end of the season now and this is a massive game for them as well as us.

“We need the points because we’re desperate to put pressure on the top two because we’re after automatic promotion.

“But Cardiff need the points because they are just outside the play-offs now and they’ll be desperate to get back into the top six.

“They’ll also want to take points off us and they’ll see us as a scalp.

“So it’s going to be a tough weekend – a lot of hard work.

“But we’ve got confidence in ourselves and having had a break, we just can’t wait to get back playing football again.”