Captain Digs into His New Club's Past; Lorik Cana Loves History So Much, He Wants to Write Himself into Sunderland's. Stuart Rayner Meets a Man on a Mission

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NOT many professional footballers list archaeology among their interests, but Lorik Cana is not your ordinary professional footballer.

The multi-lingual Kosovo-born Albanian international is fascinated by the subject and a keen student of early Middle Ages history.

You do not have to go quite so far back to find the last time Sunderland Football Club lifted a major trophy, but his interest in the past means Cana is acutely aware it has been a generation - an eternity in sporting terms.

Tonight's League Cup tie with Aston Villa offers a perfect opportunity to bury the demons.

Continuing their impressive home form against Martin O'Neill's team will be no easy task, but do so and the Black Cats will earn a place in the quarterfinals of a competition many Premier League sides take lightly.

Ask most footballers about the history of their clubs and you will be lucky if they can go as far back as the day they joined.

Some managers positively despise what they see as a millstone around their necks.

It was not until Roy Keane appeared three years ago that the Stadium of Light tunnel was decorated with photographs of past glories.

Keane caught the mood which saw the Black Cats embrace their history under the leadership of one of its notable figures, striker-turned-chairman Niall Quinn.

Where previous regimes coldshouldered them, Quinn has practically beatified the team which won the 1973 FA Cup final, an achievement they are still waiting to match.

Cana has not come to England simply to pick up a few hefty cheques then disappear over the horizon as soon as his time on Wearside runs its course.

A few months after arriving in a pounds 5m deal from Marseilles, the 26-year-old captain has enthusiastically immersed himself in his new surroundings.

Cana does not simply think it interesting or useful to know the background of his club, he feels it is his responsibility. You can always learn from the past," he says.

"With Sunderland you have a club who won many titles in the early part of their history but since then they've had problems fighting relegation and so on.

"The most important thing is to change the mentality of the club and everyone in the city.

"This is a new era and the first actors are the players. We have a new manager and new players and that gives everyone the confidence to do well.

"We have everything here to do well - great training facilities, stadium and fantastic fans.

"A month ago we met the team that won the Cup in 1973 and they told me a lot about the club. …


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