SUNDERLAND midfielder Jack Colback will head for Wembley on Sunday facing no dilemma over his hopes for the rest of the season.
Colback, his team-mates and manager Gus Poyet have spent the last few weeks being inundated with questions about whether they would settle for victory in the Capital One Cup final while losing their Barclays Premier League status, or value their continued presence in the top flight more highly than a glorious day on the big stage.
Poyet for one has nailed his colours firmly to the latter mast, but Colback sees no reason to jump one way or the other.
He said: “It’s a hard one, isn’t it? Obviously, you want to stay in the league, don’t you? That’s where you want to be, you want to be playing Premier League football.
“But we are looking to do both. It’s a nice side-step away from the league for a bit, that we get to play in a cup final, and one everyone is looking forward to.
“But we know once that’s over, we have got some more work to do.”
Whether or not Sunderland return to Wearside with the trophy and thus deprive Manchester City of a first piece of silverware for the campaign, they will be pitched straight back into a battle for their Premier League lives.
But an unlikely victory over star-studded City, who have lost on their last four league visits to the Stadium of Light, would fill a vacuum which has existed since their forebears managed to defeat Leeds against similar odds in the 1973 FA Cup final.
Colback may only be 24 years old, but he has been on the Black Cats’ books for significantly more than half his life, and the Tyneside-born academy graduate knows only too well what impact that would have.
He said: “I have been here since I was 10 years old, so I have been here a while.
“It’s good for occasions like this, being around the club for a long time, knowing how much it means to the club and the fans.
“This is what you want to play football for, the big games and to get to a cup final.
“Down the years watching other teams play in the final, you always hoped it would be you one day, and we have got that chance on Sunday.”
Poyet is yet to finalise his team for what is an intensely difficult mission, but Colback is likely to be among the starting XI having impressed the new manager during his time at the club to date.
The Uruguayan said: “When you are a fan of the club, when you feel the club inside-out, it means a little bit more.
“That’s something that Jack brings to the club and that’s why he is normally part of the 13 or 14 that play week in, week out.
“If there’s one player for whom it’s going to be a very, very special day, that one is Jack Colback, without any doubt.”
Poyet has revealed the entire senior squad will travel south with several places still up for grabs, particularly in attack, but he knows he has difficult decisions to make.
The 46-year-old said: “If you want to have a chance at any level, you need to have 23, 24, 25 players, which means that six or seven are going to miss out.
“It’s a part that I don’t like in football because they have all done something to get in there.
“They have played a part in the games or they have trained every day to make the team better and more or less everybody deserves to be part of it.
“But it’s not possible, so we are taking everybody down, we will go all together so. We are going to have the experience all together, and then we will see.”