Football: O'Neill plots fall of past heroes

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MARTIN O'NEILL, the Leicester City manager, is intent on shattering the Wembley dreams of the club he supported as a youngster when his side takes on Sunderland in the first leg of the Worthington Cup semi-final tonight.

O'Neill's boyhood hero was Charlie Hurley, the former Sunderland and Northern Ireland, hard man and he still has great affection for the First Division leaders. But sentiment will be put aside as he attempts to lead Leicester to their second League Cup final appearance in three years after their 1997 triumph over Middlesbrough.

O'Neill said: "They [Sunderland] were always my team when I was growing up. I have always had a soft spot for them. But any time I have been in opposition to them as a player or manager, that sentiment has gone out of the window. This time will be no different."

O'Neill will check the fitness of the striker Tony Cottee, who missed Saturday's FA Cup defeat by Coventry with a calf strain. If he is ruled out, then O'Neill's options are limited on a partner for Emile Heskey. At the weekend he broke up Muzzy Izzet's effective midfield partnership with Neil Lennon and pushed him into the forward line.

The Sunderland captain, Kevin Ball, said: "If we want to beat them, we've got to match their determination and spirit."