Poor Goodison record means nothing, says Martin O’Neill

FOCUSED ... Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill.
FOCUSED ... Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill.
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SUNDERLAND’S dreadful record against Everton in recent years is not worrying Martin O’Neill in the slightest.

The Black Cats boss was made aware of his side’s poor record against Everton in general and at Goodison Park in particular, this week.

Sunderland head to Merseyside for tomorrow’s FA Cup quarter-final looking for their first win against Everton since 2001, and their first at Goodison Park since 1998 but O’Neill says that’s the least of his worries.

“I’m not really aware of these records until they are mentioned to me beforehand,” said O’Neill. “Eventually, they are there to be broken. Everton’s record against us is very, very good but it’s not something that worries me unduly.

“This game itself is enough for me to concern myself with.

“Everton are playing very strongly indeed. Their form at Goodison is very good. They have won their games and they are back to the Everton we have known for the last decade.

“It’s not uncommon for Everton to come on strongly at a certain stage of the season, and they have done again.

“They have been a very, very fine side for some time, and they reached the FA Cup final three years ago, too.

“When you set out in the third round in this competition, if you can fast forward to anything – aside from winning it – you would want a home tie in the quarter-final. Everton have got that.”

A victory for Sunderland would put them into the semi-finals of the competition for the first time since 2004 when Mick McCarthy’s side lost to Millwall at Old Trafford, courtesy of a George McCartney slip and a Tim Cahill goal.

Fans enjoyed the occasion, if not the result, but this season, rather than Old Trafford being offer, a trip to Wembley awaits the semi-finals.

And while O’Neill is a traditionalist and would prefer only the final to be held in the national stadium, he knows Sunderland supporters would love to be walking down Wembley Way, even if it only as one of the last four in the competition.

“Getting to the semi-final means an appearance at Wembley and that’s enough incentive for everyone,” he admitted.

“Everton will feel exactly the same and, when the draw was made and they came out of the hat first, there would have been whoops of delight.

“It’s a tough game but this is a competition we can do well in. There are only eight teams left in it, we are one of them and that means we have a chance of winning it..”

Sunderland will again be without top scorer Stephane Sessegnon and skipper Lee Cattermole, both of whom are suspended following their red cards in the Tyne Wear derby a fortnight ago.

Defender Kieran Richardson is a doubt with a calf problem, but O’Neill is hoping that striker Nicklas Bendtner will recover from a knee injury in time to play.

“It’s a tough game for us and it would be nice to be going into it with some of the influential players we are missing, but that’s gone and those players who have come in have done very well indeed,” said O’Neill.

“We will have to go there and contest every inch of grass throughout the 90 minutes.”