Gary Rowell: Promotion the priority for Sunderland but an FA Cup run can boost squad and fanbase

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Sunderland switch to FA Cup mode on Saturday when Gillingham travel to Wearside just over a week since crashing out of the League Cup against Oxford.

Losing is always bad enough but losing on penalties is worse and in normal time against Oxford Sunderland should have had at least one penalty and hit the woodwork twice, making the exit even harder to bear.

So as one cup competition ends, another starts and as all four league cup ties were away Sunderland were due a home cup tie and that should make us favourites to progress to the second round.

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I have always loved the FA Cup, I know promotion means everything for the long-term future of the club but the FA Cup is special and should be treated accordingly.

Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.
Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson. | JPIMedia

I grew up in the 60s with those epic FA Cup clashes Sunderland had with top teams like Spurs, Leeds and Manchester United, some of them became real marathons with multiple replays that you wouldn’t get today and even though I never saw any of those games live, the stories were inspiring and fired my imagination as I got older.

Then of course the famous FA Cup win in ‘73, that people my age witnessed and still talk about so enthusiastically today, such a great memory that only the FA Cup could provide.

So, Sunderland football club has played a huge part in the history of this great tournament and nobody should forget that.

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Starting in round one is also a reminder of how low Sunderland have fallen but two wins and Sunderland go into the hat with the ‘big boys’ and I wouldn’t mind a Premier League team coming to Wearside to add a bit of glamour to a season that is anything but glamorous.

I don’t see how, if that happened, it would hinder Sunderland in their main objective of promotion - it would surely help by galvanising and exciting the fans while the players would feed off that.

Sunderland are not going to win the cup, we all know that but a Premier League scalp further down the line isn’t impossible and I know that people will say that is a dream, well the FA Cup is all about dreams.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself but you need targets - promotion is target number one but a sprinkling of FA Cup stardust can only help and beating Gillingham is the first step.