AHMED Elmohamady insists the whole of Sunderland’s squad – first-team and substitutes – are completely fired up for tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough.
The Egyptian international has largely been a bench-warmer since Martin O’Neill arrived at the club and tomorrow could be a rare chance for the winger to make a start.
But while the 24-year-old is unconvinced he will make it into the starting 11, he says in no way will that dent his desire to see Sunderland succeed.
“People might talk about the manager making changes and fielding a weakened team, but I just cannot see that happening,” he told the Echo.
“I think he will field as strong a team as he possibly can.
“Maybe there’ll be a change or two, maybe tactical, maybe to bring in a player who has come into good form, but this is a game he will want to win and I don’t think he will risk changes just for the sake of making them.
“I would love to start the game, but it does not matter to me if I don’t – I will still want Sunderland to win just as much as I always do.
“I think this is one thing that I can say about all the players in the squad – we are all looking forward to the Middlesbrough game.
“We know it is massively important and we all want to see a Sunderland victory, whether or not we start the game or are on the bench.
“It is a big, big game for us and we are all in this together.”
There’s also the question of local pride being at stake.
“People might say that this is not a derby like Newcastle, but it is still a derby,” said the 24-year-old.
“It is still important to our fans that we win a game against a team which is just down the road.
“And we know that we can give the fans a really good day if we can beat them and go into the next round.”
Elmohamady played just over an hour of the Reserves’ 1-0 win over Bolton midweek, putting in the corner from which Craig Lynch scored the only goal of the game.
And he says the run-out will stand him in good stead for tomorrow.
“It was good to be involved in a competitive game again,” he said.
“It helps to sharpen you up and it will be a help for the Middlesbrough game this Sunday, if I’m involved, that I got some much practice in during the week.”
See Monday’s Echo for a full match report and reaction to the tie.