JOHN O’SHEA says Sunderland must be on their guard tomorrow against the set-piece threat from Black Cats old boy Ian Harte.
Former Leeds defender Harte made just three Premier League starts for Sunderland after being handed a one-year deal for the club’s return to the top flight in 2007-08.
But after leaving the Stadium of Light, the former Leeds man rebuilt his reputation with spells at Carlisle and then Reading.
The 34-year-old has appeared in both of newly-promoted Reading’s opening two top flight games, almost grabbing a late free-kick winner in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City.
And ex-Ireland team-mate O’Shea says it is that ability from deadball situations which Sunderland must watch in this weekend’s opening Stadium of Light encounter.
O’Shea said: “With Hartey, I know how much of a quality player he is.
“He was playing unbelievable for Carlisle, scoring goals practically every second week and the Reading manager realised he could be a valuable addition to their team with his experience as well.
“It’s great to see him back because he’s got a great left foot, which is something we’ll have to keep an eye on from set pieces.”
Harte is not the only familiar face to O’Shea in the Reading set-up, with striker Noel Hunt a fellow child of the Sunderland defender’s hometown of Waterford.
Hunt came off the bench to help Reading rescue a point against Stoke after goalkeeper Adam Federici’s clanger looked to have inflicted a losing start to the Royals’ Premier League return.
“I know Noel Hunt quite well. He’s from the same town in Ireland as me,” said O’Shea.
“I know how hard he’s worked to get to the Premier League and I’m sure lots of the players at Reading are like that.
“That’s the hunger we’re going to be facing at the weekend. I know how valuable that can be for a team who’ve just come up.
“I watched a good bit of the highlights against Stoke and they obviously went a goal down. But any other day, their keeper would have saved it.
“They put Stoke under real pressure and for the last portion of the game it paid off.”
Reading suffered their first Premier League defeat at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and they are favourites to suffer another at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
O’Shea is far from underestimating the challenge facing Sunderland to secure their maiden Premier League win of the campaign, but believes the Black Cats will be boosted by last weekend’s stalemate at Arsenal.
The 31-year-old added: “We want to build on a positive start. Every club is trying to get off to a good start, you just need that first win as quickly as you can.
“I’m sure the manager has been working hard to improve the squad as well. If we can get those three or four players in – however many the manager is looking for – and keep everyone healthy, I can see a positive season ahead for us.
“It was a massive effort from all the lads to get a point at Arsenal. You hope you can build on it and looking at it on paper against Reading, they’re a newly-promoted team coming up against an established Premier League team and people are already writing the result in.
“But it’s far from that. I know some of the lads at Reading and they’re a well-drilled outfit. I can imagine it being a big test for us.”