Nick Holden - It's Time To Focus On The League
I'm not going to pretend that our League Cup run wasn't amazing. It produced the best moments of my time supporting Sunderland and, in and around the final, probably some of the best and most memorable moments of my life. Am I gutted we didn't get a chance to do it all again in the FA Cup? Of course I am. However at some point we had to accept that the league was going to become a priority for the club.
No-one wants to talk income or balance sheets, but broadly speaking relegation to the Championship could be disastrous. OK it feels like an opportunity missed that we let the FA Cup slip away this season, but if we manage to stay in the league we have a chance to do it all again next season. Gus Poyet is building something at Sunderland now, but for that to continue we simply have to stay in the Premier League. Recently with Sunderland it feels like we're stuck in an endless cycle of rebuilding, but were we to end up in the Championship that is how it would be for the foreseeable future. In that league if you have a good season you simply have to be promoted, otherwise you open yourself up to the danger of your entire team and even your manager being plundered and having to start again from square one.
However if we stay up this season we give Poyet a chance to build on his early promise as Sunderland manager. He can bring in players more suitable to his style of play than we perhaps have currently, and he can hopefully add some real quality where it's currently lacking. It's not a straight choice between going all out for the cup this season or focusing forever on a lifetime of midtable Premier League scrapping. Keep ourselves up this season and we give ourselves two more great shots at the cups next season. It may be unromantic to think about, but the bankroll the Premier League supplies can be the base to launch ourselves to more cup glory in future years.
Luke Bowley - We Should Have Gone All Out For Victory
There was an inevitability about how the draw for the FA Cup Semi Final would turn out. Having seen their team exit the competition in a fairly embarrassing manner, supporters masochistic enough to watch the draw that followed were treat to exactly what they expected. Had Sunderland won their tie at Hull they would have been given a golden chance of reaching the final with a semi against Sheffield United.
Of course who our opponents would have been in the next round, Man City being knocked out later that afternoon, and the glorious opportunity victory at Hull would have led to could only been seen in the evening after the game, but even so Gus Poyet's team selection seemed baffling even beforehand. It's true that we've played a lot of matches this season, but being two games from the final, with a winnable tie in front of us against a side missing their first choice strike partnership, and knowing the calibre of teams left in the competition was perhaps not the strongest, it was an odd time to drop our three best players (Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson and Ki), and try that Andrea Dossena at left back thing that hasn't worked for any club in at least six years.
The fact that Poyet did so suggests that the focus post Capital One Cup Final is firmly on league survival, although I've always been sceptical of the idea that the cups have a negative effect on league form. Is a full week's rest not enough time before the crucial game against Palace? Would two more cup games really have such a terrible effect on player fitness, or our league results, going into the run-in, even with the backlog of fixtures?
In fact, Sunday's result felt like a real momentum killer. It's been a long time since supporters and club have been as close as they have in the second half of this season, but perhaps the Hull game was the point where we realised both parties are still at odds on some things. That weekend at Wembley was one of the greatest in many supporters lives, and all fans want is more like it. Sunderland don't get to many Cup Finals, and the fact that the Poyet has spurned a wonderful opportunity to get to another one in order to focus on beating Crystal Palace next week is a little disappointing to say the least.
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