Jack Ross knows his goal this season is to secure promotion from League One, and the perfectionist in him is determined to do so by claiming the title.
Cup success is secondary and would serve as an added bonus, both financially and in terms of the club’s growing sense of confidence and unity.
Nevertheless, he has picked strong teams in every cup game fixture so far and the Checkatrade Trophy games in particular have been a valuable opportunity to get gametime for fringe players in his squad.
Trips to Port Vale and Morecambe look set to be no different, so we look at eight players likely to be given a valuable chance to impress...
Jon McLaughlin has established himself not just as Sunderland’s best goalkeeper but arguably the best in the league, too.
His performances have been outstanding but Jack Ross neeeds a number two he can rely on.
McLaughlin is third choice for Scotland and with his form only improving, his presence in upcoming squads seems certain.
Ross, however, is keen to avoid postponing any more league fixtures.
Fitting in the Blackpool game from earlier this season is already proving problematic enough.
So having a dependable back-up for McLaughlin would be a significant source of reassurance.
Ruiter has been impressive in his two Checkatrade Trophy appearances so far.
There were penalty heroics against Stoke City U21’s but most importantly, he looked sharp in both games, sweeping up well off his line and distrubuting the ball very comfortably.
Ruiter endured a difficult 2017/18 season, coming to the club after a long spell on the sidelines with injury.
He has extensive experience in the Eredivise, however, and should be able to cope at this level.
The next two games are a potential chance to prove that.
An extensive injury list gave Donald Love a chance to impress early in the season.
He won praise from Jack Ross on occasions but an injury of his own has meant an extended spell on the sidelines.
Love would have hoped to follow the lead of the likes of Lynden Gooch in showing his talent and thriving week in, week out at this level.
With Adam Matthews improving, he needs to take any opportunity he is given. ALIM OZTURK & GLENN LOOVENS
Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin is a partnership bringing excellent results, helping to deliver four league clean sheets in a row.
Ross will want to see some strong performances from the next cabs off the rank, however.
Ozturk spoke openly and honestly in an interview with the Dutch media about adapting to League One and life back in the UK last weekend.
His initial performances were mixed but at Bradford City he did well, coming off the bench and helping to protect three valuable points.
Ross would love him to prove his abilities.
Glenn Loovens is one of the most experienced players in the squad and his off-field presence is invaluable.
On it he has been steady enough and after an injury, some match fitness would be welcome.
Like McLaughlin, Flanagan is a player who seems likely to keep receiving call-ups, particularly while regular Gareth McAuley build his fitness at Rangers.
Ross will want this pair to show they are ready to stand-in.
For both, there is also the added motivation of proving that the club is strong enough to get through the season without further additions in this position.
Stewart Donald suggested on BBC Newcaslte last week that it could be one areas for potential improvement.
Mumba celebrated his first professional contract with a brief but composed cameo at Home Park.
His involvement in the first team set up is no token gesture.
Jack Ross genuinely believes he is good enough and has been planning to get him more substitute apperances.
The way games have panned out have prevented that but he remains close to more minutes.
England duty stopped him from getting a Checkatrade run out against Carlisle and it may do so again next week, with the U18’s due to face Holland on Thursday.
But he should be able to face Port Vale on Sunday and don’t bet against prominent involvement.
Power quickly established himself as a fan favourite and a player who could help Sunderland adjust to League One.
Good on the ball but also physical, his long-range passing and those switches of play were creating countless openings for Sunderland’s talented wide players.
Getting the captain’s armband was a sign of how important he had become, on and off the pitch.
Two red cards curtailed his progress and in his absence, other players have taken their chance.
Dylan McGeouch gets better with every game and George Honeyman has bounced back from a dip in form in fine fashion.
Power is perhaps fortunate that he returns with cup action next on the agenda.
Winning back a league place would have been tough but as it is, this is the perfect chance to rebuild his match fitness.
Power can be an absolutely essential player for Sunderland this season.
He needs to put a difficult spell behind him, and will no doubt get a chance to start doing so.
The summer signing has been desperately unlucky not to get a league start in recent weeks.
Few would quibble with the selections of Jack Ross, his midfield combinations working well and delivering regular wins.
O’Nien is performing superbly whenever he comes off the bench, however.
Getting into more advanced positions is turning him from a player who looked to be struggling for confidence into an absolute menace for opposition players.
He’ll surely get his start over the next week.
Kimpioka did well against Carlisle.
Jack Ross sees him as a player who can thrive in central areas and while his movement was understandably very much a work in progress, he got his goal and nearly added another.
Kimpioka isn’t yet ready to be a first team regular but this could be another chance for valuable experience.