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INTERVIEW: Like it was meant to be

9 December 2013

Paul Thirlwell on the Sunderland game

Club captain Paul Thirlwell spoke to us today about Sunday's FA Cup third round draw which confirmed that he'll be going back to the club he supports, and to where he started his career, at the beginning of the New Year.

"Ever since I left Sunderland it's been the game I've really wanted," he admitted. "Robbo [Matt Robson] is a Sunderland fan as well, so there's a lot of happy faces in the dressing room at the moment. 

"A lot of the other lads are Newcastle fans, so they'll have wanted to get them away, but this is probably the next best thing for them."

"All of my family are Sunderland fans, and I was there until I was 24, so I'm really looking forward to it," he explained. "I've never had a chance to go back there as a player so it will be great to get out onto that pitch and play. 

"Obviously Kav needs to pick me, but I could potentially be leading the team out. That would be a fantastic experience. When you get to my age it does get less and less likely that something like this will happen and it was almost like it was meant to be when the game was drawn out of the hat on Sunday."

There are, of course, a number of important league games to negotiate before the focus can fully turn to the Stadium of Light. 

"We've got a lot of league games before this one so we'll be concentrating on them before we even start to think about going to Sunderland," he confirmed. "It gives everyone a good chance to play well and show Kav that they're worthy of a place in the team. Hopefully we'll go there with a fully fit squad, including myself, and give them a really good game. 

"The games come thick and fast over Christmas so we won't be able to do anything other than focus on them one at a time. Kav will make sure that the next game is always the most important one and if we can get points on the board we'll go into the Sunderland game in a very good frame of mind. 

"It will come up very quickly and it should give the lads that extra aim of making sure they play well in the league games to give themselves the best chance of playing in the FA Cup."

"Brentford was always going to be a hard game," he agreed. "I don't know the exact stats but they've got to be one of the form teams in the league at the moment. 

"They came into it high on confidence and we knew we had to be at our best to get a result. It certainly felt like we played well on Saturday. Another pleasing thing was that we put on a good performance and produced an exciting game for the home fans. We all want to entertain our supporters and hopefully this is the start of that."

The other thing a trip to Sunderland has already sparked is some healthy debate in the dressing room. 

"We do have a lot of north east lads at the club so it has made it very interesting," he confirmed. "The Geordies all want to go there and win, so they get the bragging rights, and there's a bit of nostalgia for myself because it's obviously one of my previous clubs. 

"When the game comes around it won't matter who we support. We all want to go there and do a job for Carlisle United. The pressure is all on them because they're expected to get the result, but I'm sure we can go there and give a good account of ourselves." 

"It's nice for the fans that we've got a Premier League team and even better that it's one of the local ones," he added. "I think it was 1995 when we last played them so it will be nice for the fans to go to the Stadium of Light. 

"If we can go there and play as well as we know we can then there's no reason we can't get a result. Anything can happen in the FA Cup, and we all hope it goes in our favour, even though it will obviously be a difficult game."

"First things first and we're all looking ahead to the Tranmere game now," he insisted. "We've got quite a good little run going at home at the moment so it would be good to carry that on. 

"We're always up for every game but we seem to perform better against the so-called bigger teams. It's teams like Tranmere, who are in and around us, that we need to really focus on because these are probably the most important games. The aim is to play as well as we did at the weekend and start climbing up that table."

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