DAVID Vaughan will be as keen to prove a point as the Wolverhampton Wanderers players fighting relegation at the Stadium of Light tomorrow.
With their Premier League status slipping away from them, Wolves ought to be more motivated than hosts Sunderland. But Vaughan will be out to prove his worth too, to ensure he survives manager Martin O’Neill’s summer revamp.
“We just want a crack at it to show the manager what we’re capable of,” said the Wales midfielder, recalled to the line-up for the first time in three weeks against Everton on Easter Monday.
“It was nice to get a start against Everton. I would have liked to have been on the winning side. Hopefully I can get a few more games in between now and the end of the season.
“He (O’Neill) is disappointed with the performance on Monday and rightly so. It’s down to the players to show we’re better than that and provide the response the manager’s looking for.
“He demands things of players and doesn’t let the standards drop too much too often. Hopefully we can repay his faith.”
O’Neill feigned indifference to his first transfer window as Sunderland manager, not moving until the final day, and only then to bring in two players (Wayne Bridge and Sotirios Krygiakos) on loan. Throughout January he made clear he would prefer to give himself time to assess his squad, and reshape it in the summer.
A hero of O’Neill’s first game, scoring a spectacular equaliser en route to victory against Blackburn Rovers, Vaughan was the villain of his nadir, his own goal summing up a tame FA Cup exit to Everton. Thanks to injury, the time inbetween has been mixed. Recalled by O’Neill against Blackburn after a low-key start to life on Wearside, he became a regular until injury struck in late January.
Since then others have moved ahead of him in the most competitive department of Sunderland’s squad. Lee Cattermole, Craig Gardner and Jack Colback all appear further up the pecking order.
The cultured 29-year-old (pictured right) has made 19 starts and seven substitute appearances in his debut season on Wearside.
O’Neill is trying hard to ensure Sunderland’s season does not drift after their FA Cup exit left them without silverware to play for. Monday’s 4-0 defeat – also to the Toffees – was a setback in their revised goal of a top-eight finish but with Liverpool wavering, Vaughan thinks it is still achievable.
“We’ve got to try and forget about losses like that and move on but learn from them as well,” he said in his interview with Sunderland’s official website. “Hopefully we can put things right on Saturday against Wolves. To lose heavily like that was pretty disappointing. We’ve got to get as many points on the board as we can. We’ve got targets to aim for and where we want to finish. Hopefully we can push on, finish well and there’s a good chance to start well next season. We’re only four points off Liverpool so it’s well within our reach to get that eighth spot at least.”
Having come out second best in a relegation tussle with Wolves last season, when he was Blackpool’s player of the year, Vaughan knows that despite their meagre 22-point tally, Terry Connor’s men will be a tough proposition tomorrow.
“There’s a bit of an edge about the game and you know you’ve got to pick up points,” he said.
“Their players have got something to prove that they’re still capable of playing in the Premier League. They need to get the points to prove that.
“They just about avoided relegation last season and they’ve got that experience behind them.”