SUNDERLAND’S cup hero of 20 years ago believes if Martin O’Neill’s men can overcome Arsenal in Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash they have every chance of going all the way in the competition.
John Byrne, who scored in every round of the Black Cats’ extraordinary 1992 FA Cup run barring the final, insists they have the ability to make it to Wembley.
The former striker argues the belief and spirit installed by O’Neill is a characteristic you need if you want to etch your name in FA Cup folklore.
Belief and spirit are certainly things Sunderland have in abundance.
The delight on Stéphane Sessègnon’s face after his extra-time winner against local rivals Middlesbrough highlighted the hunger and desire reverberating around Wearside.
Byrne thinks O’Neill’s will to win can put an end to the club’s 39-year wait for a domestic trophy.
He said: “Martin O’Neill has done an amazing job since he has come in. The turnaround has been remarkable.
“With the spirit and belief he has brought to Sunderland there is no reason why they cannot go all the way in the FA Cup.
“I am looking at them and thinking there are not many teams who would fancy playing them with the form they are in.
“A win on Saturday and it means you are only two victories away from the final.
“The momentum starts to build and the players will become aware of what is at stake.
“Coming up against the Gunners is always tough, but Saturday’s match showed they can cause an upset. They played really well for the majority of the game and were unlucky.”
Byrne was the spearhead of Sunderland’s charge to Wembley in what was the club’s last major cup final appearance.