Sunderland’s O’Shea admits Reading test is ‘massive’

HEADS UP ... Sunderland's John O'Shea in action against Chelsea.
HEADS UP ... Sunderland's John O'Shea in action against Chelsea.
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JOHN O’SHEA insists Sunderland’s bid to permanently escape the bottom three does not solely revolve around tomorrow night’s basement scrap with Reading.

Sunderland sank into the relegation zone for the first time during Martin O’Neill’s tenure on Saturday after the 3-1 loss to third-placed Chelsea consigned the Black Cats to a fifth defeat in seven Premier League outings.

O’Neill’s side now face a crucial rearranged meeting with second bottom Reading at the Stadium of Light tomorrow – an encounter which O’Shea admits is “massive”.

But with Sunderland also facing top-five outfits Manchester United, Manchester City and Spurs this month, stand-in skipper O’Shea says the Wearsiders have more to do in the battle for survival than just get the better of the Royals.

O’Shea told the Echo: “Going into the bottom three is not a wake-up call – we’re well aware of where we are in the league.

“Because of where the two teams are, tomorrow night’s game does become massive. But the league doesn’t finish after we play Reading.

“We’ve got some massive games coming up in December, very tough games.

“But if we show the attitude that we know we’re capable of, then I can’t see a problem.

“There’ll be tough times ahead, no doubt. The games on paper are tough this month.

“But we start tomorrow in a game we’re more than capable of winning. Reading will be thinking exactly the same thing, though.”

Meanwhile, O’Shea is confident he will be fit to face Reading after returning to the side following a calf strain.

The centre-half had missed Sunderland’s two previous games, but, after returning to training on Thursday, resumed his partnership with Carlos Cuellar against Chelsea at the expense of Matt Kilgallon.

The 31-year-old added: “I feel alright. I wouldn’t say I was 100 per cent, but I was fine to get through the game and thankfully there’s been no reaction.

“I was fortunate the way it happened against West Brom that I didn’t properly tear the muscle.

“It held up on Saturday. Fingers crossed, it will settle down and we’ll wait and see for tomorrow.”