MICK McCARTHY will rest a number of stars tonight after making the Premiership's £20m bounty his main priority.

Marcus Stewart, Mart Poom and Julio Arca are among the first-teamers that could all be omitted for the visit of Huddersfield Town as McCarthy shuffles his pack for the Carling Cup clash.

Michael Proctor is set for his first start for more than a month, while fringe players like Michael Ingham, Ben Clark and Craig James are in contention to be in the starting line-up.

McCarthy, wary of Sheffield United's failure in last season's play-offs after reaching two Cup semi-finals, is ready to put their promotion charge ahead of progress in any knockout competition.

He said: "We're still playing Sheffield United in the First Division this season.

"I'm not knocking them, and I'd welcome a good Cup run, but I can give 20 million reasons why the League is more important than the League Cup - and they've all got a pound sign in front of them.

"I'm not trying to demean the competition, and whatever team plays against Huddersfield will be busting a gut to win and to progress in the Cup.

"But there are a number of players that are carrying little niggles and knocks, and are going into games when they're not 100 per cent.

"I want a fit squad to pick from for the League games, but we'll still have a strong side out.

"Players that don't play won't play because either they've played loads, or because they've got niggles. When we play the likes of Wigan or West Ham in the League, I don't want to put in one of those lads that has never played a first team game.

"It would be a much tougher situation for him than if he'd already played a competitive match and he knew he could handle it.

"People say some players have got no experience - but how do you get experience if you don't play?

"At the moment, I've got 24 players, including three goalkeepers. But I don't think all 24 would walk straight into the first team.

"I need to know they can play in that stadium in front of that crowd against competitive opposition."

Stewart yesterday confessed his shock at Poom's amazing goal at Derby County and joked that the keeper has set himself a target of four goals this season.

Stewart had already spurned three very presentable chances on Saturday when Poom pinched a point for Sunderland in stoppage time.

The striker said: "It was a double-take moment. I hadn't even seen him come up, so I was even more surprised to see him celebrating.

"I think he's going for three or four goals this season now!"

Stephen Wright is still out with a calf injury, while Jason McAteer (hamstring) and Matt Piper (knee) remain more than a month away from a return to first-team action.

Read more about Sunderland here.