AN OUTING to Wembley might have ended in defeat, but skipper John O’Shea thinks everyone associated with Sunderland should use the experience to spur them on to greater success.
After 22 years of trying the Black Cats got to play a part in a major cup final again, even if the 41-year wait to win some silverware again goes on.
That could yet change this season if Sunderland can continue their drive in the FA Cup, knowing a victory in this Sunday’s sixth round tie at Hull City would seal a Wembley return for a semi-final date.
There is also the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Black Cats’ position in the Premier League, which is still seen as a priority by many at the club because of the financial stability top-flight status brings.
But O’Shea thinks the way Sunderland edged in front against Manchester City in the Capital One Cup final should fill the squad with the confidence going forward in to the rest of the campaign.
“We can take pride in the way we played but ultimately we lost,” said the Irishman. “It was perfection in the first half really, we shut City out and they ran out of ideas, they couldn't cope with us on the counter-attack, so the manager's plans worked to perfection.
“On another day, another game, we might have been 2-0 up at half-time. We really knew we were going to be on the back foot in the second half. They were short of ideas in the first half but you're fully aware of what quality they possess.
“I thought we controlled it in the first half, our possession was very good and we were able to hit City on the counter-attack but we need to score more goals too, we know that. Whatever limited chances there might be, we have to make sure we're clinical.
“It's one of those things where you play great and you lose, you play poorly and you lose, you've still lost a final. You might try to take crumbs of comfort but you can't really because you've still lost a final. We've got to dust ourselves down very quickly, get our families together and go again ahead of a big few weeks.”
Despite the situation facing Sunderland in the league, the players would clearly love to seal a quick return to Wembley for a FA Cup semi-final.
That would be the case if Sunderland can claim a win at the KC Stadium this weekend, although having lost twice to the Tigers already this season there will be few at the Stadium of Light taking progress for granted.
O’Shea said: “The FA Cup has been good for us this season and we hope it will be again. Hull have been bubbling away nicely and they won quite comfortably against Brighton in the previous round’s replay. I watched that game. We came up against them twice this season and if we can keep 11 players on the pitch we'll give them a very good game.”
What Sunderland boss Gustavo Poyet must try to do now, though, is ensure there are no negative effects in the way his team play after losing at Wembley.
Unlike O’Shea who has had many glorious nights with Manchester United, many members of the dressing room have not got to play on such a stage before but every one of those should now have got the taste for more.
“Without a doubt,” said O’Shea. “The occasion was great. The boys who haven't played in an occasion like that final will have learned so much from it. We could be here again very soon but first and foremost it's the league and making sure we get back up the table.
“You're fully aware of what it meant to everyone. You're fully aware of how many years it is since Sunderland were in a final so you're fully aware of the expectation and the proud feeling that everyone had in reaching a final, but the main enjoyment you get in a final is when you win it.”
Almost 4,000 Sunderland fans will travel to Hull after tickets were sold out for the tie. Following the cup tie, Poyet’s side are back in Premier League action as they welcome Crystal Palace to the Stadium of Light on Saturday, March 15.
A special offer for season card holders is available for the game, allowing them to purchase an additional two tickets for £10 each. Standard tickets for the games are priced at £25 for adults, £19 for over 65s and £10 for Under-16s and.