John O'Shea

O'Shea's fitness focus

by Stuart Vose

Defender relishing friendly tests.

Defender John O'Shea is focusing all his energies on making sure he goes into the new season in the best shape possible.

The 31-year-old returned to training last week having represented the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2012.

Sunderland face a pair of friendly tests in the Midlands to round off their pre-season campaign, starting with a trip to Derby tonight.

The Black Cats then head to Leicester on Saturday as Martin O'Neill returns to his former club.

It's all eyes focused on Arsenal

- John O'Shea

The two games are then followed by next weekend's big kick-off against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, and the visit to London is uppermost in O'Shea's mind.

"I am sure Derby and Leicester will want to put down a marker against a Premier League team so we know it will be very difficult.

"The most important thing is the players getting the match sharpness improved and getting the fitness improved and making sure they come through with no injuries."

He added: "It's key that we get the players' fitness up and get through the ninety minutes.

"The bonus is then if you have scored a few goals and have won the game, especially in pre-season because you don't want players picking up injuries.

"It's all eyes focused on Arsenal, really, and making sure we get through these games.

"If you pick up wins along the way it's all well and good; it does breed confidence and we will be going out to win the games."

O'Shea got his first pre-season run-out in the bag against Helsingborgs and says he felt no ill effects afterwards.

However he admits the result was disappointing with Sunderland looking to improve over the last two friendlies.

"There are always going to be a few little aches and niggles when you're getting back in to things, but nothing too serious," he said.

"The more games you get the better you feel the more confidence you feel with your fitness work.

"Obviously we were playing against a team that are halfway through their season.

"Had we taken our chances it would have been a much better result for us, but there is definitely room for improvement."

- Watch the full interview with John on SAFC TV now.