Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pair of Aces Prove a Point

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pair of Aces Prove a Point

Article excerpt

Byline: By Paul Gilder

It would be difficult to find two characters more different than Jason McAteer and George McCartney under one roof. The former is a brash and confident wise-cracker, the latter famously shy and retiring; yet both held similar fears when they returned for pre-season training at the Academy of Light last summer.

"I didn't want to leave Sunderland, never in a million years, but, given the financial situation at the club, I thought I was a prime candidate to go," explained McAteer, who was granted a stay of execution by Mick McCarthy when the Wearside axe fell.

McCartney's case is slightly different. "I knew that this was going to be a big year for me," said the 22-year-old. "I knew that if I didn't get a regular place in the team this year, I would maybe have to go elsewhere. I was thinking that, if I didn't cement a place in the team, I would have to leave because I wouldn't have been good enough to stay at Sunderland."

Despite their respective concerns both stayed at the Stadium of Light and have played major roles over the course of a campaign in which the Black Cats have restored some of the pride lost during the club's annus horribilis.

"None of us thought we would be looking forward to an FA Cup semi-final last summer," said McAteer, whose experience will be vital if the Wearsiders are to overcome Dennis Wise's Millwall tomorrow to book a place in next month's Millennium Stadium final.

"I didn't even know if I would be here but, fortunately, the gaffer gave me a chance. I have been with him for years and he knows what I'm all about. I feel as though I have repaid him for that with the games I have played for him this season.

"I was desperate to stay. I had some bad times with Graeme Souness at Blackburn but here I have a manager who I really want to play for. It sounds stupid but I fell out of love with football at Blackburn, it became a chore and it wasn't fun. …

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