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Cup Football A Help Not a Hindrance, Says Midfielder

Success in the cup is apparently breeding nothing but confidence, which is nice.

Michael Regan

Craig Gardner has dismissed suggestions that Sunderland's cup exploits this season will be detrimental to the club's survival bid.

The midfielder, who rocketed his side into the quarter finals of the FA Cup with a stunning winner against Southampton, believes the confidence that the cup runs are providing is more useful to the players than the rest early exists would have allowed.

He told safc.com:

The run is just giving us real confidence - everyone is behind the gaffer.

You can't not like him - he's a top man and training is brilliant. They [the coaching staff] are really good people.

We've got a good changing room. Everyone wants to do well and that's what's getting us through.

There is a bit of a perception out there that just because Wigan went down last season after winning the cup, the same fate awaits anyone struggling at the bottom.

To be fair, Gardner himself suffered a similar fate at Birmingham where he was part of the side who won the League Cup at Wembley and then suffered final-day relegation at White Hart Lane. But there is so little in football that you can reduce down to patterns and certainties. I think that is a big part of why we love it so much.

By the time key players such as Ki Sung-Yueng, Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley and Adam Johnson take to the pitch at Arsenal this weekend, it will have been two weeks since they last played. Wes Brown will have had four weeks off when he returns from suspension. Liam Bridcutt has played just three games since the turn of the year.

Fabio Borini essentially had a two week rest between the Newcastle and Southampton games due to the early enforced substitution against Hull. Then there are the likes of Santiago Vergini, Nacho Scocco, Emanuele Giaccherini and Gardner himself who have played very little football of late.

With the squad we have, I won't personally accept tiredness due to a cup-induced fixture pile-up as any kind of excuse. The worry is that should rivals get a couple of good results over the next few weeks, the pressure of playing catch-up may tell on the group mentally. But I suppose that is a bridge to cross if and when we get to it.