Tony Gillan: Who knows what the FA Cup match against Arsenal will hold for Sunderland?

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce
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The festivities have ended, the Quality Street have all been guzzled and a load of people have been given OBE’s for going to work.

So it must be FA Cup third round weekend. What joy is in store?

Sunderland supporters will have to pay £36.50 for a ticket, a price somewhere between steep and vertical, to endure the winter cold at the Emirates while watching an under-strength Arsenal play an under-strength SAFC.

The 550-mile round trip will prepare merry travellers for almost the same journey to Tottenham a week later.

The two fixtures sit either side of a 700-mile journey to south Wales and back on January 13, a game rearranged at outrageously short notice by Swansea City with cheerful contempt for visiting supporters.

It is therefore reasonable to assert that cup fever on Wearside is not quite the epidemic that local medical professionals had feared.

Sam Allardyce has a great many advisers to keep him right when it comes to cup team selection – and only some of them drive taxis.

As Arsenal will rest some of their better players, Sunderland should take advantage by naming the strongest possible team.

Cups are there to be won, although it is also better to be eliminated when there is relegation to combat.

Such a fixture requires experience and is also an ideal opportunity to try younger players.

A defensive formation is the way to contain the league leaders, although Sunderland should also just go for goals to obviate a dreaded replay.

The tournament offers an outside chance for a club like Sunderland to acquire silverware, but is of no relevance when compared to the riches of the Premier League.

To summarise then, Sunderland should play a full-strength weakened team, do their utmost in the competition while not taking it seriously, take on Arsenal with highly experienced teenagers, play defensive-minded all-out attack for a morale-boosting win that wouldn’t mean anything and remember, above all, that the fans are simultaneously passionate about and uninterested in the FA Cup.

Over to you then Sam; as long as you remember that whatever you do is wrong.