Boss's message for squad men.
Martin O’Neill has urged every member of his squad to ensure they are on their game ahead of a tricky test at MK Dons.
Sunderland face the Npower League One side in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening with O’Neill admitting he may have to make changes due to injuries.
The Black Cats boss is weighing up his options and says the players he calls into the side could be the difference-makers against a Dons side who are amongst the early promotion front-runners in the third tier.
I think it would be a difficult game anyway even if we had everyone to choose from, and we might have to make a couple of enforced changes
- Martin O'Neill
“They are a strong side who are going very well,” said the Sunderland boss.
“I think it would be a difficult game anyway even if we had everyone to choose from, and we might have to make a couple of enforced changes.
“I really don’t like doing that if at all possible, especially this early in the season. But things are forced upon us and we will try to compete as strongly as possible.
“We need people stepping up to the mark and coming in. Some players might feel they should be in the side. Their contribution is of paramount importance if we’re going to try and get through.
“I’m hoping that throughout the whole season players are always having to try and prove something, and I think we do that anyway both as players and managers.
“If it ever got to the stage where we feel we have nothing to prove, that would be a concern.”
Sunderland saw off Morecambe 2-0 last month to reach the third round, while the Dons have already eliminated Cheltenham and Championship high-flyers Blackburn.
Karl Robinson’s side routed Bury 4-1 at Gigg Lane last weekend and O’Neill knows a solid away display is a must.
He said: “It’s a cup competition we’d like to stay in having put on a decent performance against Morecambe a couple of weeks ago with a pretty strong side. I wouldn’t want to bow out meekly.
“Milton Keynes have nothing to lose and they want to play against a Barclays Premier League side. The possibility of winning the game must have given them a major lift.
“From our own viewpoint, I will reiterate that we will be as strong as we possibly can be.”
Meanwhile Sunderland are set to be backed by another strong travelling army with over 2,000 tickets already sold ahead of the game.
And O’Neill is again delighted with the support afforded to his side – particularly for a midweek away game more than 200 miles from home.
“Very little surprises me about the club,” he added. “Passion and desire are overused words but they are epitomized by the Sunderland fans.”