Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Wembley Dream Driving Cats On

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Wembley Dream Driving Cats On

Article excerpt


MARTIN O'NEILL says the prospect of a Wembley appearance is a huge incentive as Sunderland face Everton in tonight's FA Cup quarter-final replay.

A semi-final date against Liverpool awaits the winners - and that means a trip to Wembley, with the FA choosing to host the semis at the rebuilt national stadium since 2008.

And O'Neill - who played in front of the Twin Towers at the old Wembley seven times for club and country - believes the chance of running out at the famous stadium will spur his players on against the Toffeemen. "I've played at Wembley seven times, with Nottingham Forest and Northern Ireland," said the Black Cats boss.

"Games at Wembley are always special occasions - whether they were at the old stadium or now at the new one.

"And it is a huge incentive for the players to know that if they beat Everton tonight, they will have the chance to play at Wembley in the semi-final.

"I've said before that I am not a fan of having the semis at Wembley, but the fact is they are staged there and this is an opportunity for players to experience that.

"It would be a great thing for the players to have on their CVs, particularly the younger ones.

"But we have to concentrate on beating Everton tonight before we think about that."

Sunderland drew 1-1 with Everton at Goodison Park 10 days ago to earn the right to bring David Moyes' side back to the Stadium of Light.

But if the scores are level tonight, the tie will go to extratime and possibly penalties - and O'Neill admits the Black Cats have been brushing up on their spot-kick skills, just in case!

He said: "There's no harm in practising penalties and we have done that.

"You can always have a practice or two after training and hopefully it's worthwhile doing that, just to get the feel of putting the ball down on the spot and going up against a goalkeeper - it can be a bit of fun, you can have knock-out competitions.

"But I have to say that absolutely nothing prepares you for a real, live penalty shoot-out in proper match conditions."

O'Neill took over in December with Sunderland fourth bottom of the table and at that stage, thoughts of a top ten finish and a cup run were a million miles away. …

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