Concentrate on the league after FA Cup upset

The Northern Echo: CUP WOES: John O’Shea reacts after Sunderland lose 3-0 to Hull City in the FA Cup quarter-final last week CUP WOES: John O’Shea reacts after Sunderland lose 3-0 to Hull City in the FA Cup quarter-final last week

You know that horrible gut wrenching feeling you get on a Monday morning?

The one that takes a split second to digest when your alarm sounds at half 6, especially when the daybreak itself is dim and dark?

You hope it’s a Sunday but it isn’t, no such luck. Think about that unbearable sensation, especially when you’ve had a few bevvies the night before. Sorry to do this to you, but just think about that realisation for a moment.

Not nice, eh? It’s akin to what happened to me about half an hour after the Hull defeat. Now, first things first, I think there was a huge overreaction regarding that loss. Secondly, I’ll make it clear I’m speaking for myself here – just 50 per cent of the Wise Men Say podcast.

I feel that, whilst the players’ application was poor and disappointing, Gus Poyet had every right to select the players he did for the game. In fact, he was almost obliged to. Forget about whether or not you’d prefer cup success to Premier League survival (ironically I’ve gone on record saying I would), the fact of the matter is that these “fringe players”

needed to play.

Not because the league run in is more important than another Wembley trip, but because the backlog of games we now have means they had to be given the chance to stake a claim as quickly as possible.

These weren’t youth players still wet behind the ears gracing the quarter finals of the world’s oldest cup competition either, they were respected internationals who we’ll need to play significant and autonomous roles in our attempt to maintain top-flight status. And it was a game against opposition you’d hope they could be influential against. It was their chance to really stand up and be counted, if you’ll excuse the cliche.

I was still gutted at the outcome, though.

We’ve all become a little enchanted by our trip to the Capital One Cup Final and the extra possibility of a return to the same venue for the FA Cup semis was a realistic one.

The experience was something you feel you’ll only witness once or twice in a lifetime, so to blow the opportunity of a swift return in your very next game was, and is, tough to take. Once the feeling of dejection was compounded by the realisation that a relegation battle was about to be resumed, then I really did get that familiar Monday morning feeling. Only tenfold. Fiftyfold, even.

What was alarmingly apparent during the second half surrender at the KC Stadium was that the Wembley effect has possibly hypnotised us all. The cup runs have dragged us down into that trap of misjudgment once more, the one that Martin O’Neill really brought to the forefront during his mesmerizing first few weeks in charge.

We become fooled by performance levels rising above the norm. When the plateau level arrives we can clearly see that this collective group of players really aren’t all that. Poyet has done a remarkable job to give us a realistic chance of Premier League survival, never mind cup finals and this sudden expectation of avoiding the drop.

Home games against sides like Palace, West Brom and West Ham scare the living daylights out of me if I’m honest.

Teams who come to the Stadium of Light for a goalless draw often get a 1-0 win and the reality of it all has put me on a right downer. Let’s hope some of the Wembley spirit prevails in all of us both sides of the white line. We’re gonna need it.

STEPHEN GOLDSMITH

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