SUNDERLAND TEN YEARS AGO: Cunningham’s rally cry, Keane’s warning

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

ON THE REBOUND!

Kenny Cunningham says Sunderland must show they are genuine promotion contenders, not pretenders.

The Black Cats trail Championship leaders Cardiff by 10 points going into tomorrow’s home match with Sheffield Wednesday.

Last weekend’s 3-1 loss at Ipswich dented some of Wearside’s recent optimism, but Cunningham insists his side can be the real deal.

The defender said: “There is big expectation here and it is understandable. We feel the quality of this squad is as good as anyone in this league. We have to work to prove that we are as good as that and start climbing this league.

“We have been working hard on the training pitch and hope to produce a much improved performance against Sheffield Wednesday.

“Hopefully we will see a rebound effect after the Ipswich performance.

“We have had a dreadful start to the season in terms of results, but I feel we’re still heading in the right direction and we have the strength and character to be competing at the end of the season. We still think promotion is a realistic aim.”

Sunderland have lost five of their opening nine Championship games and Cunningham admits the defence has to tighten up.

“We’ve given away some soft goals,” confessed the former Republic of Ireland captain. “If we’re to consider ourselves promotion contenders, we have to avoid many more performances like last week.

“There’s enough experience in our dressing room to make sure last weekend’s result doesn’t affect us greatly. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.

KEANE WARNS AGAINST COMPLACENCY

Roy Keane says Sunderland cannot afford their third below-par performance in a row when Sheffield Wednesday visit the Stadium of Light tomorrow.

And he says that despite the Yorkshiremen’s lowly league position, the Black Cats will have to be firing on all cylinders if they are to take all three points.

He said: “I watched Sheffield Wednesday’s game on DVD earlier in the week – saw how they played against Hull – and we’ve been doing our homework on them as the week has progressed.

It’s true that they’ve struggled so far this season but we can’t afford to take anything for granted.

“One thing I know about the Championship is that if you’re not on your game then other teams will take advantage.

“And Sheffield Wednesday will be no different.

“There are expectations on us and we have to enjoy that – it is a challenge for us.

“Teams comes here and think that if they keep it tight our players might get uptight. We have to try to enjoy the game because football is there to be enjoyed, but you enjoy it a lot more then you’re winning.

“The worst thing you can do with football fans is ask them to be patient. They want results. From a player’s point of view, we have to use our heads, know when to go forward and when to defend.

“We would all like to win the game in the opening five or ten minutes, but it is not as simple as that.”