George Honeyman didn’t tell his mam he wouldn’t be home for tea last time Sunderland went to Wembley – she went with him!
George Honeyman didn’t have to tell his mam he wouldn’t be home for tea the last time Sunderland were at Wembley – as she went with him!
Now, five years on, the Academy graduate-turned skipper is looking to make it a Mother’s Day to remember this weekend.
Honeyman is hoping to cap a ‘whirlwind’ couple of years by lifting the Checkatrade Trophy in front of 40,000 Sunderland supporters on Sunday.
The 24-year-old was handed the captain’s armband by Jack Ross when the Scot took charge last summer and it has been a dream of his to lead the club at a Wembley final.
That will become a reality shortly before 2.30pm on Sunday when the Black Cats take on Portsmouth in front of a sold-out Wembley.
Honeyman leads a side packed with experience, leaders and even former Sunderland captains; Lee Cattermole, Grant Leadbitter, Glenn Loovens and Aiden McGeady among the elder statesman he can take advice and guidance from.
Sunderland were last at Wembley five years ago, losing out to Manchester City in the League Cup final, Honeyman attended that final alongside his mum.
This time, on Mother’s Day, he hopes to be giving her a perfect present by lifting the trophy at the famous stadium.
He’ll be leading the team out against a Pompey side also backed by a sold-out following, with more than 80,000 fans – including hordes of the Prudhoe-born player’s friends and family – crammed into Wembley creating a superb atmosphere.
“We wanted Portsmouth to get through because we knew they would bring a big crowd. It will be surreal,” said Honeyman, free to play after it was confirmed his three-game league ban for his red at Wycombe Wanderers didn’t include the Checkatrade Trophy final.
“I am sure everyone will enjoy the moment. It’s not the FA Cup final but it will live in people’s memories if we lift the trophy, hopefully it will last in the memory for a while.
“I went down with my mum in 2014, it was mad, I couldn’t believe how much they took over the whole city. It will be amazing to see and I can’t wait to experience it as a player.
“I have a bus load of family and friends going. They had already booked that bus before the red card, so I was doubly lucky to hear I could play.
“It will be a great weekend and we are all looking forward to it.”
Honeyman has taken on the captaincy this season after impressing Jack Ross with his leadership qualities during the summer.
He admits sometimes he has to pinch himself given how much things have changed over the last couple of years, going from a fringe player to the man tasked with leading the team out at Wembley.
“It has been a whirlwind couple of years, and now the chance to lead the team out at Wembley, there is a lot of fairytale stuff,” he admitted.
“If I had thought about this three years ago I would never have believed it. I will try not to get overawed by it. I want to make sure I enjoy it and I will be extra gutted if we don’t win it.
“I remember speaking after leading the team out at Hartlepool in pre-season and how it means the world to me, so to lead the club out at Wembley in a cup final, it’s hard to put that into words.
“I have not let myself think about it too much because it could overcome you. I want to do it justice, perform, and I want to go and win.
“I’d have not thought this was possible at that cup final (against City).
“It was just an amazing day out and I’d have been happy with just playing a few games for Sunderland at that point would have been fantastic.
“It’s surreal, it’s a whirlwind the last few years really, and the best whirlwind ever for me personally. I want to cap it off now with a win.
“It will all feel a bit for nothing if we don’t go and win it.
“If I get to a cup final at Wembley with Sunderland we have to go and win it.”
And with just a couple of days now before the Wembley showpiece, has the skipper thought much about what he’ll say in those final few moments in the dressing room?
“I do like to talk before a game. I think a captain has to lead by example, how you train, play, and not let circumstances affect you.
“Everyone does chip in, we have a lot of leaders.
“I have read books like Steven Gerrard, John Terry … and they always have a great support network around them. I am very lucky to have them in this squad as well.
“At Wembley I haven’t thought of anything special. But if you’re a player and you need motivating by a captain for a cup final then you’re in the wrong job.
“It’s about enjoying the day, having no regrets. That’s the main thing.
“You can’t come off wishing you have done this or that. We are a fantastic bunch of pros and won’t need me to get them running up and down.
“It’s a massive privilege and I am very lucky to have the support network of Grant, Lee, Glenn has been a massive help. All the lads have.
“Aiden, Max, the list goes on. I am so lucky because I feel like I have got so much respect. I have seen it in the past where players don’t give anyone respect in the dressing room.
“I remember Grant joining in with one of my training sessions when I was 12, I remember feeling in awe, and then him coming back now and playing with is great.
“I love it but I can’t let myself get too overawed by it. I am not here to think I have won a competition, I want to put my stamp on being a great captain of this club.”