Savage memories inspire midfielder's hopes for Cardiff final

Memories of Roy Essandoh will ensure that Robbie Savage will take nothing for granted as he tries to help Birmingham reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Sunderland at St Andrews tonight.

Savage was part of the Leicester side then in the top six of the Premiership that were overwhelming favourites to reach the last four in 2000-01 when they were drawn at home to Second Division Wycombe.

The then Wycombe manager Lawrie Sanchez's resources were so depleted that he signed Essandoh after scouring the internet - and the rest is history. Essandoh scored in the dying seconds to earn Wycombe a 2-1 win at Filbert Street and a meeting with Liverpool to leave Savage and his team-mates looking on in disbelief.

Now the Wales international is again within touching distance of a day out at the Millennium Stadium with the Blues home to another First Division side in Sheffield United if they dispose of the Black Cats at the second attempt.

Savage said: "Being a proud Welshman, everyone knows what it would mean to me to play in a final for my club at Cardiff. We thought we had a great chance with Leicester in 2001. We drew Wycombe at home and thought we were through to the semi-finals already.

"But then Essandoh popped up in the last minute for them to win the game and it's an example of why I never take anything for granted in this game."

Sunderland's manager, Mick McCarthy, insists his side will be totally focused on tonight's FA Cup replay despite promotion to the Premiership remaining the top priority.

They face the First Division leaders, Norwich, on Saturday 15 points adrift of their opponents to the Stadium of Light and a place in the top six in the chase for an immediate return to the top flight.

McCarthy is desperate for his side to put behind them the four-goal drubbing at Cardiff last weekend. "The League stands on it's own," McCarthy said. "We want promotion because of all the things that happen in the Premiership financially and everything that goes with it.

"But it's also necessary sometimes to stress the importance of the FA Cup. The fact is we are still in it and we want to win it."

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