'It'll be unstoppable!': Sunderland ace makes this prediction with Wembley and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus' takeover on the horizon
Callum McFadzean believes that Sunderland can become ‘unstoppable’ if they can continue riding the feel-good factor currently surrounding the Stadium of Light.
A penalty shoot-out victory over Lincoln City sealed a return to Wembley for the Black Cats and capped-off a promising week on Wearside – which saw the side start to play with the swagger that Lee Johnson has sought in a heavy win over Doncaster, while also moving closer to a change in ownership.
Kyril Louis-Dreyfus has now taken a majority share in the club after the EFL approved the proposed deal, and watched on as Sunderland sealed a return to the national stadium on Wednesday.
His presence has only added to a renewed sense of optimism around the Stadium of Light and – while we have of course been here before – McFadzean believes things are starting to move in the right direction and can see ‘exciting times’ on the horizon.
"The gaffer, since he's come in, has been excellent,” said the full-back.
"I think it's exciting times for the club. You have to be aware it doesn't just happen and you have to believe in the process and let the process take it.
"But it's going in the right direction, and once this club is going in the right direction it'll be unstoppable really. Everything is there for us to be a successful, massive club.”
And while the Papa John’s Trophy remains a controversial competition in many quarters, it’s one which McFadzean and the Sunderland squad are taking seriously.
That much was evident in Lee Johnson’s squad selection for the semi-final, and in the celebrations that were sparked by Grant Leadbitter’s winning penalty.
But regardless of the competition, McFadzean is targeting silverware – especially given the Wearsiders’ long wait for a Wembley win.
1973 was the last time the Black Cats won at the national stadium, and the two disappointments of 2019 will still be in the minds of many of the squad.
And for the full-back, the chance to put things right is a major incentive.
“People just think it's the Papa John's, but you want to win a trophy,” he admitted.
"For the club, for myself - I want to get that silverware around my neck. Regardless of what it is, we want to do it for us, the club and the fans.
"It's been that many times the club have missed out and that just adds even more to it for me personally. I want to go there and do it for the fans because we want success at this club.”
"There's no better way than getting there and putting it right,” he continued.
"There's boys in there who have been there and tasted that, but we're raring to go. Obviously we've got another couple of weeks until then so we've got to concentrate on what's in front of us then, but we'll be itching to go."
The win over Lincoln City was one that was tinged with an element of disappointment, though – given that the game looks set to be played in front of an empty Wembley.
McFadzean is yet to experience the roar of the Wearside faithful himself, but has seen footage of the last time the Black Cats headed to the capital for a cup final.
The fact that experience won’t be able to be recreated is ‘gutting’, he says.
"It's been weird all the time now.
"It's gutting that we're not going to have the fans there because I've seen myself that they come out in numbers. It's going to be weird and a bit frustrating that we haven't got the fans there with us, but everyone is in the same boat so we can't use that as an excuse.
“I've seen a few of the Sunderland 'Til I Die episodes and since I've come I've not had the fans here, which is a bit gutting. But hopefully the time will come soon and we can get them back in, behind the boys and roaring us on.”
Sunderland will, however, have to park their cup dreams for the time being.
There are a number of key fixtures still to be played in the league before the final against Tranmere Rovers on March 14, with the Black Cats currently perched just inside the play-off places in a competitive division.
But can the cup run prove a catalyst for Sunderland’s league form?
"Massively, it can pick the lads up even more,” said McFadzean.
"Obviously they can't get too carried away, but I don't think it's a distraction. We've got to put it to the side for the time being and keep ticking the games off.
"We've just got to take every game as it comes. We can't get carried away and start looking into the future - every game as it comes, we've got to keep ticking them off.”
Next up for Sunderland is a trip to one of McFadzean’s former clubs in Burton Albion.
And the full-back is hopeful of being handed another start, although a knock taken in the first half of the Lincoln game will be monitored prior to the trip to Staffordshire.
"It was just a little bang, so we'll have to wait and see what happens regarding that,” said McFadzean of the knock.
"I struggled with my groin a little bit, but I just had to be patient with that and make sure nothing serious came of it. I had a little rest and I feel great now, and I'm delighted to be back in the team.”