JOHN O’SHEA believes Sunderland’s FA Cup success has demonstrated that there is strength in depth at Gus Poyet’s disposal.
Captain O’Shea was one of just two players retained in the starting XI for Sunderland’s fifth round clash against Southampton on Saturday as Black Cats boss Poyet handed those on the fringes an opportunity during a hectic period of fixtures.
But the Capital One Cup finalists made light of those changes to move within one game of a second appearance of the season at Wembley, after Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino surprisingly shuffled his pack too.
And with two cup runs already forcing three Premier League encounters to be rearranged, O’Shea says it is encouraging to see Sunderland can still emerge on top after rotating.
“It helps when the manager makes the point beforehand to players and says they are getting a chance in the team and they have to show they want to be in it,” said O’Shea.
“I thought the lads did that brilliantly on Saturday.
“We started off very well and although Southampton made changes, they still had some quality players on show.
“We probably deserved to be ahead in the first half.
“To make that many changes and have the quality of play we had at stages during the game was very pleasing to see.”
O’Shea admits he feared the last 16 tie was heading for a replay in the final 10 minutes when the ball fell to Southampton’s Rickie Lambert three yards out, only for the England striker to blaze over the bar.
But the 32-year-old points out that Sunderland had opportunities on the break to “kill the game off” too.
In the end, Sunderland didn’t require the safety net of a second goal and although the FA Cup adds to their crowded fixture list, O’Shea insists it is far better to have a winning habit than a losing one.
“Winning breeds confidence and we have to take that forward,” added the Republic of Ireland international.
“If we had lost against Southampton, there would be heads down and it’s a long week of training.
“But now, hopefully training will go quickly this week and we can go down to Arsenal next weekend with confidence and fully aware of the dangers we face.”