SUNDERLAND head coach Gus Poyet has hailed and congratulated his players on reaching the club’s first Wembley cup final in more than two decades.
But now he has a very simple and clear message for them: “Forget about it!”
The Uruguayan could not be prouder of the fact that, on Sunday, March 2, he will lead his players out at one of his favourite stadiums in the whole world: Wembley.
But he points out that between then and now, there stands game against Stoke City, Newcastle United, Hull, Manchester City and Arsenal.
And he says every player has to remain focused on the job in hand – which is to keep Sunderland progressing, especially in their bid to stay in the Premier League.
“Wembley is wonderful,” he told the Football Echo. “But it is also a long way away and the players have much to do before we go there.
“They have to forget about the final and concentrate on these games. I do not want them to be distracted.
“If I see players pulling out of challenges because they don’t want to be injured before the final or they don’t want to risk a yellow card, then those players won’t play.
“We have to put thoughts of the final out of our minds – it is all about doing well in the games in front of us now.
“Only if we do that, will we be able to enjoy the final fully.
“We do not want to go there still being the favourites for relegation.”
Poyet, though, accepts that the Old Trafford night on Wednesday was something a bit special by anyone’s standards.
And he says that both he and the players were deeply affected by the dramatic triumph in front of the 9,000 travelling fans.
“It has been difficult for us,” he reflected. “And the game at Old Trafford was an amazing release for us.
“OK, we are lucky – we are paid a lot of money for doing a job we like – I understand that.
“But it is still a job.
“And you can have a very difficult time in your job – that has been what it has been like for the players at our club.
“When you have a time like that, where everything is pressure and seem bad, when you get a night like United, it can be incredibly emotional.
“I saw a lot of that in the dressing room afterwards and they were very emotional.
“But I was happy for that and happy for them.
“It has been hard work to get to where we’ve, but it has been worth it.
“Now the most important thing is to realise there is still a lot more of us to do, to accomplish, and for us to be enthusiastic and focused on that, too.”
* Don’t miss the online Football Echo – with the biggest and best coverage of SAFC – it’s out now