O'Shea unfazed by fixture list
They're not expecting much Christmas cheer around Sunderland as a relegation-threatened side face into a very testing run of games.
But Irish defender John O'Shea is confident that the Black Cats will just deal with what's thrown their way in their bid to stay in the Premier League.
Beaten in their last two games, the most recent defeat a disappointing loss at home to Watford last weekend, Sam Allardyce's side have a tough fixture list to digest over the Christmas period.
Away to Chelsea next weekend, the Black Cats follow that up with another away game, against Manchester City. Then comes a date with Liverpool before a relegation battle against Aston Villa in the New Year, not an easy schedule as O'Shea admits.
"It's a tough run of games but playing these teams is why we want to play in the Premier League. No game is easy; I've never had an easy game yet in the Premier League," said O'Shea.
"When we go down to Chelsea and Man City and face Liverpool we need to ensure that we are well prepared and ready for the challenge."
Sunderland had appeared to be on their way out of trouble under Allardyce, as they enjoyed back to back wins - and clean sheets - against Crystal Palace and Stoke last month, but they've shipped four goals in the last two games, most recently that 1-0 loss to Watford.
"After the performances we've put in recently the standard of the early part of that game was hugely disappointing," O'Shea explained.
"We had a couple of chances to score but our last couple of wins have been based on us keeping a clean sheet and, when you lose that early in the game it's frustrating.
"We grew into the game later in the first half and in the second half, so we are disappointed not to have got something from the game but we need to make sure we start games better. The pleasing point was when we changed our system we were in control and we created some very good chances; their keeper has made a couple of fantastic saves to keep them ahead and maybe on another day we probably would have got something from the game."
The Watford defeat was a bad day at the office for O'Shea's side but he did reach a personal milestone in that game as it was his 400th Premier League appearance. Since the Premier League began in 1992, only three players from the Republic have reached the 400-game mark, O'Shea following Shay Given and Richard Dunne.