Gary Rowell: A Carabao Cup run is a nice bonus but Sunderland cannot afford to fail against Southend United
It’s yet another of those weeks with cup and league action as Sunderland prepare for the visit of Southend on Saturday but not before they have a fourth round league cup clash with Oxford tonight.
Sunderland’s form in cup competitions this season has been outstanding, which is more than we can say for their league form, were inconsistency has plagued them.
I don’t doubt for a minute that Phil Parkinson will use all of his squad over the next two games, Oxford will probably do the same as they, like Sunderland, have promotion hopes and currently occupy a play-off position.
It is incredible to think Sunderland could be in the quarter-finals of a major cup competition if they win tonight but because everybody knows how important and crucial going up means to the club, that fact has probably gone under the radar a little bit.
I want Sunderland to win at Oxford tonight for our magnificent, loyal away fans more than anything - they are incredible and have had too many frustrating trips home recently.
After the Oxford cup tie, it is back to league action when Southend arrive on Wearside in a game where there is no room for error, Sunderland have to get three points and the players can expect a backlash if they don’t.
With Southend having a torrid time recently, and Sunderland scoring five in their last home game, a lot of people might be expecting a similar scoreline but let’s just get the game won and worry about how many when that’s done.
This is Sunderland, remember, nothing is ever straightforward and we just need to think back to the Bolton game, the only team below Southend in the table and we couldn’t beat them so that should serve as a warning.
I don’t know too many of the Southend players but new boss Sol Campbell has been one of the biggest figures in English football and I hear Andy Cole is helping him out with the strikers so if their players need inspiration surely Sol Campbell and Andy Cole can provide it with what they have both achieved in the game.
So, Sunderland have two big games this game, one in the cup that from round one has always been a bonus if we win but one in the league were the players cannot afford to fail, as if there was ever a game were only three points would do, it is on Saturday.