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Roker Roundtable: Do you want Sunderland to have a good run in the FA Cup this season?

As the Lads prepare for their FA Cup encounter this weekend, we asked our writers how important progression in the competition could be this season

Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

Paddy Hollis says...

I’d be happy to make plenty of changes and give opportunities to fringe players.

Given the injury issues we’ve had this season, I wouldn’t be disappointed to lose, just as long as the players who start get a decent run out. The FA Cup is great but at this point in time, it’s important to make sure that we don’t end up with any more key players picking up injuries.

Defeat would obviously be frustrating, but for me there wouldn’t be anything wrong with getting knocked out at Shrewsbury.

We saw this attitude during the Sheffield Wednesday league cup game, where we made wholesale changes and lost. There was anger at the performance but we’ve since been able to focus on our continued stability and improvement back in the Championship.

A similar pattern on Saturday wouldn’t bother me at all as I’d want the focus to turn to league matters, starting with the visit of Swansea.

Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland - Carabao Cup - First Round - Hillsborough Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

I’m similar to Paddy to be honest, and he makes a lot of good points.

I apologise to those who see the FA Cup as a historic bastion of the game, but my view is that we need to use this for the benefit of the club. If we get somewhere while doing so, great.

Despite our ongoing injury issues, there are many players who’ve not really had a chance to show what they can do since Tony Mowbray took over.

That includes youngsters who’ve done very well in age group football, and if we’re going to put lads like Chris Rigg on the bench for league games, why not give him a chance on Saturday and see how he does?

In addition, the likes of Alex Bass, Trai Hume, Niall Huggins (if fit), Jay Matete, Leon Dajaku and Jewison Bennette all need more time on the pitch, and I’d use these lads extensively against Shrewsbury.

They could be called upon at any time and they’ll benefit from playing. Bass in particular as he’s hardly touched a ball since signing, and the likes of Bennette due to him returning from World Cup duty and not yet being fully match fit.

If we get to the latter stages, the club will no doubt review what we do in terms of progressing further, but I don’t want an elongated cup run to cause more injury woes and to add to our fixtures.

Let’s do this to suit our season and if we get to the sixth round, for example, we can think about that when the time comes.

Paddy Hayes says...

Although it would be the perfect way to mark the fiftieth anniversary of our last FA Cup win by achieving the same feat this year, my Sunderland-induced sense of realism has no designs on this year’s competition beyond the fourth or fifth round.

I expect us to field an under-strength team against Shrewsbury and to give the likes of Jewison Bennette, Jay Matete, Niall Huggins, and Leon Dajaku some minutes, as well as resting some of the lads who’ve clocked up a fair few miles over the festive period.

I think a second-string side has what it takes to get through to the fourth round where we can feasibly meet anyone, ideally Liverpool, Manchester United, or Manchester City at home.

Ultimately, I’d prefer it if we focused our attention on the league, and on a potential playoff push.

It’s not an accident that we sit eighth in the table, and we’re firmly in the mix to have a successful second half to our first Championship season in four years.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says...

Although a cup run would be fun, I’ve got no real interest in one.

The reality is that Sunderland’s squad is thin on the ground and a commitment to progression becomes a commitment to playing your key players at some stage, adding games and risk to a busy schedule.

As it stands, I also wouldn’t be sacrificing the FA Cup in favour of a mad dash for the playoffs, as I believe a season of mid-table mediocrity is exactly what the doctor ordered. That said, prioritising the league is absolutely key and a top ten finish would put us in incredible shape come the end of the season.

Ideally, sacrificing this competition would allow us to secure a place in the top half of the table with anywhere upwards of three or four games to spare.

Doing so would create the headroom for us to rotate our squad, run the rule over some fringe players and offer them a short period of consistency not afforded or guaranteed by a cup run.

Given where we are and how our recruitment model is shaped, clarity surrounding our league position may pay dividends when Kristjaan Speakman and company are provided with a head start heading into what could be a busy summer.

Andrew Smithson says...

I always want Sunderland to take the cup competitions seriously and to progress as far as possible.

A win is a win, and any opportunity for glory should be looked at. That’s what the game is about and whilst I agree that the club needs to take a sustainable approach, a bit of excitement in the meantime will never be a bad thing.

I know I’ve got a rather romantic point of view but even from a practical stance, you could argue that a it would be handy.

Maintaining a winning mentality is vital and a couple of additional games could be an opportunity to ease one or two players back to fitness. Injuries and the departure of Ellis Simms mean that we might not be able to select the side we wanted against Shrewsbury Town anyway, but I think we should go into every game looking to win.

Do that, and the rest will take care of itself.

Some of our cup exits over the last few seasons have been embarrassing and whilst I do appreciate the suggestion that we need to prioritise league form to an extent, I don’t believe things are that clear cut or that progress in one competition automatically hampers others.

Certainly, our current position means we are relatively comfortable anyway, and with memories of 1973 coming to the fore this year, people will be reminded of how special a tournament the FA Cup can be.

You could argue even that there are some similiarities with Bob Stokoe’s squad and the one we have now.

Both had a core of honest lads and youth products, many of whom are extremely talented and relish playing with the shackles off. I’m not suggesting that our name is on the trophy, but in that context we can dream, can’t we?

Ian Porterfield Sunderland v Leeds United 1973 FA Cup Final Photo by Don Morley/Allsport/Getty Images


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