THE REVOLVING doors of the Stadium of Light reception span with the spirit of 1973 yesterday.
Dennis Tueart, Jimmy Montgomery and Bobby Kerr all paraded alongside the Capital One Cup trophy, as the build-up to Sunday’s final took a predictable trip down memory lane.
It’s telling that television, radio and newspaper journalists are having to hunt down ex-pros who are eligible for a bus pass, just so they can get a tale about Sunderland success at Wembley.
“Forty-one years and counting” will be the sorry underlying basic fact if Sunderland succumb against Manchester City.
But although the members of Bob Stokoe’s side would happily pass on the baton to the next generation, those 90 minutes in May, 73, have defined their lives.
For the current crop of Sunderland icons, they don’t have to look too far to grasp how much a trophy means to the people of Wearside.
A couple of hours after the photo-shoot with the Sunderland old boys, Gus Poyet was asked whether he indeed understood what was riding on this weekend’s final.
He chuckled to himself.
Like the rest of his performance at the pre-cup final press briefing yesterday, his answer was composed, yet laced with passion and possessing an underlying current of determination to end that wait of four decades for a trophy.
“It’s the nice part of football; you sometimes don’t realise how important it is to win a trophy or how happy it makes people feel or how your life can change forever,” said Poyet.
“We are fortunate and very privileged to be in this situation.
“We can talk about the Premier League and the position in the table, but on Sunday… we are there.
“Sunderland. The players, the fans, the club, myself, my staff.
“I’m sure that every single club in England that is not there, would love to be there.
“You need to be one of the top four clubs in England to be able to go to Wembley every year or once every two years.
“But here, it happens once every 20 years.
“To win it? Oh my God, even more.”
Taking Sunderland to Wembley was not on Poyet’s immediate job specification when Ellis Short ended a fortnight’s search for Paolo Di Canio’s successor by appointing the Uruguayan last October.
Keeping Sunderland in the Premier League was – and is – the overwhelming main objective handed to the former Brighton boss.
Yet after the Black Cats secured a dramatic extra-time victory over Chelsea in the quarter-finals, Poyet has sensed the opportunity of cup joy.
Ironically, Sunderland have subsequently opened up a second line of attack on the cups, with Poyet’s men travelling to Steve Bruce’s Hull City in the FA Cup quarter finals, seven days after their Wembley showdown.
“It means a lot to me, because it wasn’t expected,” said Poyet.
“When I had the opportunity to come here and when the chairman gave it me, I was not for a second thinking about the cup.
“And then slowly, we were getting through and closer.
“Then you start thinking about it and then it becomes reality.
“I’m sure it will be a very special moment on Sunday.
“I know how much it means for any manager to be leading the team out. It’s going to be a great time for myself, my family and my friends.
“It’s been tough because when I came here, the biggest challenge and the most important part of everything was about the Premier League.
“But we’ll see.
“It’s a plus and you don’t plan it. I didn’t play in the cup thinking about Wembley, it was just coming.
“But when you get to the semi-finals, it’s different.
“It’s incredible it’s happened in the FA Cup too because we were giving opportunities to players.
“Then you find yourself one win away from Wembley again and it would be incredible to go there for a second time.”
Poyet shied away from making any grandiose predictions about Sunderland lifting the League Cup on Sunday tea-time – perhaps something his predecessor would not have been able to resist.
But there was a word which Poyet noticeably kept repeating: “everything”.
It wasn’t just that clichéd demand for his players to give their all.
It was more about Sunderland doing everything in their power to get the better of formidable opposition, who have netted an ominous 69 times in 26 league outings this season.
After the self-inflicted blows which have repeatedly hampered Sunderland both before and after Poyet’s appointment – red cards, own goals, kamikaze defensive errors – the former Chelsea midfielder just wants the Black Cats to do themselves justice.
Then, even if Sunderland are beaten by the undoubted talent existing within City’s ranks, Poyet will be able to rest easy.
“We have the chance to do something important and that’s the biggest challenge I’ve got as a manager – to make sure we do everything possible,” he said.
“No regrets, no mistakes, we really give everything and, from the first minute, we look a proper team.
“Then, football will dictate it.
“You need to do plenty of things for luck to come your way. It’s not like you just wish it and accept it.
“What I can feel is that the players are desperate to play. Every single one.
“There’s no relaxing from people who are not expecting to play, even if they are realistic.
“As a group, they are seeing an opportunity and they want to take it.
“I just have to make sure that when the game starts, everyone on the pitch is in the best form.
“The ones that need to relax; relax. The ones that need to be tense; tense. The ones that need to shout; shout.
“That will give us a better opportunity. We need to do everything possible; everything.
“They’re can’t be any regrets or ‘if’s’ and ‘but’s’.
“If it’s enough, great. If it’s not, we need to accept it.”
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