Sunderland’s O’Shea focused on first drop battle

John O'Shea
John O'Shea
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JOHN O’Shea admits that he is in unfamiliar territory when it comes to a relegation scrap.

But the former Manchester United regular insists the footballing principles are just the same when it comes to battling at the bottom or chasing titles and trophies.

The 31-year-old was at Old Trafford from 1999-2011 prior to his move to Sunderland in a £5m deal and during that time the Red Devils never finished lower than third in the top flight.

Along the way, O’Shea was part of a club which accumulated five league titles, three League Cups, an FA Cup and the Champions League as well as the FIFA Club World Cup.

And this current season is the first he has experienced where relegation worries have remained so close to the end of a campaign.

“It’s not something I’m used to,” he told the Echo. “So you could say it’s a new experience for me.

“But in its own way, I don’t think it is any different from when you’re chasing for a title - it’s all about the importance of winning pressure games.

“You faced that all the time at Old Trafford and you got used to it, so it is not going to affect me playing in pressure games at the other end of the table.

“It all comes down to everyone in the team focusing completely on the job they’ve got to do, making sure they do it and looking to help out and support their team-mates along the way.”

Although O’Shea appreciates the importance of this weekend’s game against Norwich City, he thinks it would be wrong to place too much significance on a game against the team one place and three points above Sunderland.

If the Black Cats win, they will leapfrog the Canaries and have taken a massive step towards Premier League safety.

But O’Shea said: “While there’s no denying the Norwich game is a massive one for us because it’s the next one up and the next game is always the most important – I wouldn’t say that it is like a cup final.

“There are nine games to go this season, so if you’re talking cup finals, every one of them is a cup final – they’re all opportunities to pick up points to get us towards safety.

“The bottom line is that we have to go out and handle the pressure and win a few games and I’ve got no doubt at all that we’re a good enough side to do that.”