Quinn: Goal-shy strikers can be Black Cats heroes

Sunderland hero Niall Quinn says the Black Cats' struggling strikers can put their disappointing season behind them in Sunday's League Cup final against Manchester City.

The Wearsiders currently occupy a place in the Premier League relegation zone thanks to a troubled campaign in which their goal-shy hitmen have netted only seven times between them.

Steven Fletcher hasn't featured since January's 1-0 win over Stoke, but was in training before last weekend's defeat at Arsenal. Jozy Altidore has led the line in his absence, but the American is without a goal in 12 league apperances having only netted against Chelsea in early December.

Quinn, therefore, who notched more than 60 goals for both of Sunday's cup finalists, admits the Black Cats' goal-getters have points to prove.

"To a certain extent, they do," he told FourFourTwo. "Fletcher has been injured a lot this season, and they have missed him because he has previously had a lot of influence. But the cups are made for one person; people like Ian Porterfield, who is sadly no longer with us but will be forever remembered for his FA Cup-winning goal against Leeds in 1973. Jimmy Montgomerie is for his saves that day, too.

"So there are heroes at either end of the pitch. If Sunderland have a great day it'll probably mean Vito Mannone has had one too, and at the other end the script could be written for someone else to make their name.

"They have to believe they can do that, though, because this is such a big event for the club and the city. When the chance comes along they have to be level-headed enough to take it."

Quinn spent six years at Maine Road from 1990-96 before joining Sunderland for a club record £1.3 million and enjoying another six years in the North East.

The former Republic of Ireland international still holds the latter particularly close to his heart, and says cup fever has visibly left its mark on the city.

"I was up there last weekend and the place has gone crazy," said the 47-year-old. "Tickets are like gold dust, and there is optimism in the air. Sunderland fans have seen their team beat Manchester City four years in a row, and there is a lot of emotion flying around as you might expect around such a big club that have been denied matches like this over the years.

"Young and old, the people of Sunderland are up for this game and it's going to be a wonderful occasion. They could have sold twice as many tickets."

Quinn himself is no stranger to League Cup glory, having won the trophy - his only major silverware as a player - with Arsenal in 1987.

"It was a wonderful day, as I had lots of friends and family over from Ireland," he recalled. "We were playing the mighty Liverpool, who were the team of the day. One of the things that springs to mind is that Ian Rush scored, and they never lost when that happened.

"I'd been to Wembley to watch Ireland play England and stood on the terraces, so to be out playing on the pitch itself was a dream come true.

"It was lovely to be part of what turned out to be the start of George Graham's successful reign. It was a trophy that put the belief back into the dressing room, and while I was around for the League challenge in 1989 I didn't play enough games to get a medal. I was proud to have been there at the start and that day was special."

Niall Quinn was speaking on behalf of Capital One, the credit card company and sponsors of the League Cup.