SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Evans set for debut, third time lucky for Cats

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

GREAT TO BE HERE – AT LAST:

Boss Keane convinced Evans to make move.

JONNY EVANS stands by for his Sunderland debut in the FA Cup third round at Preston – but revealed it could have come a lot earlier.

The 19-year-old Manchester centre-back – who has joined Sunderland on loan for the rest of the season – said the Black Cats first made their move for him in the summer.

Sir Alex Ferguson sent the Northern Ireland defender to Belgian feeder club Royal Antwerp, but Roy Keane’s arrival as manager at the Stadium of Light helped clinch a deal for the Belfast teenager.

Evans said: “The fact that Roy Keane is the manager was a big factor in me coming here. I think a lot of players will tell you that, whether they are associated with Manchester United or not.

“He’s been a big influence on a lot of people’s careers and a lot of people look up to him.

“Even before Roy Keane got the job here, I knew Sunderland were interested in me in the summer and I was really excited about the possibility of coming here even then.

“Then Roy Keane was appointed and that clinched it for me.

“I saw Roy, just before he got the Sunderland job, in the queue at the cinema and I asked him then whether he was looking to go into management.

“He said that he was working on a few things and it was only a few day later that he got the job!”

Evans got his first taste of the Stadium of Light when the Black Cats went down to a 1-0 Championship defeat to Preston on Saturday.

“Sunderland is a massive club,” he enthused. “I remember watching them as I was growing up, when Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips were here and they did really well for a couple of years in the Premiership.

“Sunderland have a great fan base – I was at the game against Preston last weekend and there were more than 30,000 people there, even in the Championship.

“Hopefully I can help get the club back into the Premiership where it belong.”

Evans prefers to play centre-back, but can operate at left-back.

Though he has yet to play a first-team game in England, he believes he has a lot from his loan spell with Antwerp.

He said: “I’ve never played a competitive game for Manchester United – only in pre-season friendlies. But I have trained with Roy Keane a few times and I know what he is like as a player, although of course I don’t know much about him as a manager yet.

“I think my time at Royal Antwerp has been really beneficial. They are in a similar kind of situation to Sunderland – they have a massive fan base, a big stadium and they are in the second division in Belgium when they should really be in the top division.

“I see coming here as part of my footballing education. That’s what it is all about. As a player, I want to improve and this is the next step for me. But it’s not just about me, it’s about the team as a whole, and hopefully we can get promoted this season.

DEFENSIVE WEAKNESS MUST BE SORTED OUT:

ROY KEANE hopes it’s a case of third time lucky this weekend against jinx side Preston North End.

The Lilywhites last week completed the league double over Sunderland, but the Black Cats boss feels his team have been a little hard done by.

And he’d like his players to set the record straight a little by winning their FA Cup third round tie tomorrow.

He said: “Preston are a good side and I’ve said that after both our games this season. But I have to say I’ve felt that we didn’t get our just rewards in the last game against them at the Stadium of Light.

“We had more than enough chances to get something out of the game and I felt we deserved at least a point.

“If you look at that game, Preston had only one shot on target in the entire match and they scored from it. And actually, if you look at the game at their place, they had four shots on target and scored all four.

“We’ve created plenty of chances in both games, but we just haven’t had the rub of the green in front of goal.

“One of the things I would like to see this weekend is for us to make big improvements on the ratio of goals on target against us and goals scored because you can’t have a side scoring with every shot they have on goal.”

Keane is hoping his team will triumph this weekend because he views the competition as a chance for the club to make a statement.

He said: “I think the players would like a good cup run and it would be nice if we could get one – it always helps. We’ve got new players coming in now, players coming back from loan and players coming back from injury.

“So we’ll have the squad to cope with extra games and of course it gives players an opportunity to stake their claims for first team places.

“It will be a tough game for us tomorrow, especially at their place where they have an excellent record. But we’ve got one or two fresh faces in now and the squad are in good spirits after the win against Leicester City at the weekend and it’s a game we are looking forward to.”