CAPTAIN John O’Shea says victory against Arsenal this weekend is the best payback Sunderland’s players can offer.
Sunderland made international headlines this week with the Black Cats squad’s decision to refund the admission price for last Saturday’s 8-0 rout at Southampton, with travelling supporters able to donate that money to Grace House hospice.
But despite that gesture, centre-half O’Shea knows Sunderland need to produce a response on the pitch after the club’s heaviest defeat in 32 years.
Sunderland had boasted the joint second best defensive record in the Premier League prior to last Saturday, and O’Shea realises the Black Cats need to resume that pattern against the Gunners to make amends for the shambles at St Mary’s.
O’Shea said: “Three points is the biggest thing we need to give everyone - fans, ourselves and the staff.
“Ultimately, you have to confine that to a one-off.
“Whatever team we were playing this weekend, we need to see what we had been seeing previously - intensity in our play, putting pressure on teams and stopping them playing.
“Arsenal are a good team, there’ll have spells where they’re going to have the ball.
“But we need to put them under pressure, particularly when they’ve got a few injuries at the back and a midweek Champions League game. Let’s see if we can use that to our advantage.
“In terms of how the season had been going, that result was a big disappointment for the manager.
“Obviously he’s spoken to us and that will remain in-house.
“But hopefully there’ll be a reaction on Saturday and in the games coming up.”
Goalkeeper Vito Mannone proposed a refund to the 2,600 supporters who had travelled to the south coast immediately after the Southampton defeat.
And O’Shea says the idea needed little discussion in the dressing room, with the Sunderland players agreeing to foot the bill of around £60,000 out of their own pockets.
The 33-year-old said: “It was done very quickly. We had a chat among the lads.
“We made the statement on the fans issue, so hopefully that draws a line under that and we can move on very quickly.
“The way the away fans travel and the home fans as well, we always appreciate it.
“It was incredible support and hopefully that will continue.”
O’Shea described the atmosphere at the training ground this week as “raw” as Sunderland’s players began to come to terms with the rout.
But the defeat has not been swept under the carpet, with Sunderland’s squad analysing the game thoroughly to ensure it is consigned to a one-off freak result.
“We were off Sunday and then had a bit of fitness training on Monday,” added O’Shea.
“On Tuesday, we just went through everything in the game, analysed everything, talked about it to make sure something like that hopefully never happens again.
“Because of the solidity that we had leading up to the point, hopefully it is a one-off.
“It’s been very raw.
“It’s happened. You analyse everything and you have to make sure the level of intensity and tempo is maintained every week in the Premier League. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against.
“We had maintained that up until Southampton. That was the disappointing aspect.”g