Sam Allardyce says that securing Premier League safety is the “priority” for Sunderland ahead of their FA Cup clash with holders Arsenal this weekend.
Allardyce has made his feelings regarding the festive fixture list publicly vocal and openly admits he would welcome the introduction of a winter break in English football.
The Black Cats face Premier League leaders Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium this weekend followed by trips to both Swansea and Tottenham Hotspur.
Allardyce says we are “all in love with the FA Cup”, but admits that with Sunderland currently 19th in the Premier League, his priority must be to avoid relegation to the Championship.
“It’s always the Premier League,” said the 61-year-old. “We are in the bottom three and that makes our status in the Premier League the most important thing – and this is the club priority, this is the priority from Ellis Short downwards.
“The emphasis at this football club, at every football club I have been at and every owner I have worked for says we have to stay and we have to be in the Premier League for next season.
“That’s always the first priority, notwithstanding we all love the FA Cup, we’d all love to do exceptionally well in it.
“But look, if you win the FA Cup, like Wigan did and who now find themselves in League One having been relegated after winning that FA Cup… This club cannot afford that.”
Sunderland have won the FA Cup twice, most famously in 1973 when as a second division outfit, they defeated Don Revie’s Leeds at Wembley in memorable fashion.
Despite having no association with Sunderland at the time, Allardyce says that he recalls that famous day as a teenager watching on.
He said: “Everybody has enjoyed the FA Cup at some stage or other and everybody would like to get to the final and experience that.
“This club has been there and is remembered very much for Jim Montgomery’s couple of saves all those years ago and Bob Stokoe’s run on the pitch.
“I can remember that vividly myself and it had nothing to do with me, I just watched it on the television.
“We are all in love with the FA Cup, but unfortunately priorities change in football and our priority is the Premier League.”