CHARLIE Oatway is enjoying seeing a different side to the FA Cup after always being cast as the underdog during his playing career.
Sunderland are firm favourites to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup tomorrow when Championship Fulham visit the Stadium of Light, despite the Black Cats winning just one Premier League encounter on their own patch this season.
It is a refreshing change of roles for Sunderland first-team coach Oatway, who never got beyond the third round in his 14-year playing career in the lower leagues with Cardiff, Torquay, Brentford and Brighton.
The one time Oatway was involved in a big FA Cup tie as a player, was when he joined part-time Conference South side Havant and Waterlooville at the tail end of his career and the non-leaguers landed a plum trip to Liverpool in the third round, back in 2008.
“I love the FA Cup – I grew up watching it,” said Oatway.
“But I never did very well in the cups as a player.
“After I’d retired from Brighton with my knee, I wanted to carry on playing and I joined Havant & Waterlooville.
“One year we played Swansea away and we drew, then we beat them back at our place to get a crack at a fourth round match at Liverpool.
“But I had said to the boys that if we beat Swansea, I would give up my shirt for one of the younger lads to play at Liverpool. So I let one of the other lads play at Anfield, and I just came on for 15 minutes.”
Havant threatened to cause an upset at Liverpool too – twice taking the lead, before eventually succumbing to a 5-2 defeat.
“It was a good game,” recalls Oatway. “We were 1-0 up, then it went to 1-1, then we went 2-1 up, then 2-2.
“But I think we just got them angry and they came out in the second half, got the hump and started scoring for fun!”
However, since joining Gus Poyet at the Stadium of Light 15 months ago, Oatway has seen a different side to the cup competitions.
Sunderland reached the final of the Capital One Cup last season – their first Wembley showpiece in 22 years – along with the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
“The FA Cup gives the so-called smaller clubs the chance to play against the so-called bigger clubs,” added Oatway. “That’s why I have always loved it – because I have always played for smaller clubs and this was our chance.
“Now I am a coach at a bigger club and it has given me the chance to get a different spin on it.
“I was useless with the cups (as a player).
“It had to change sooner or later though and I guess I have done better as a coach because we did well in the cup competitions last year.”