Sunderland boss Jack Ross has ambitions to manage a full Wear-Tyne derby against Newcastle United in the Premier League.
The Black Cats host Newcastle United’s Under-21s in the knockout stages of the Checkatrade Trophy at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night (KO 7.45pm).
It is an unusual set of circumstances with Sunderland’s first team taking on Newcastle’s youngsters but Ross - who is targeting Checkatrade Trophy success his season - says he is treating the competition with respect, like he has at every stage to date.
Sunderland, who host League One promotion rivals Luton Town on Saturday, will make several changes for the last sixteen fixture but still field a strong side.
There is the added carrot of being a game closer to a Wembley final for the North East rivals.
Ross harbours ambitions of one day experiencing the full derby atmosphere and leading Sunderland against Newcastle in a league match in the top flight.
“It is a very unusual set of circumstances and if I am honest far from ideal, I mean that because we are involved in this competition as a first team given what has happened over the last couple of years and one of the targets for me is to lead this club into a derby match, hopefully at the top level,” said Ross.
“That is not what tomorrow night is, it is a Checkatrade Trophy match and that is really how we are looking at it.
“Preparation has been the same as for the previous games.
“Players have treated every Checkatrade Trophy game in the same way and this will be no different.
“I am not playing it down in any way but genuinely for me, it is just another Checkatrade Trophy match and we will treat it the right way.”
Ross added: “That is a consequence of us having suffered relegations, that is the soreness when a fixture like this comes around
“The drive for me is to take the club back into playing in these fixtures properly. I mean that respectfully, this isn’t a derby that is seen as the one that everybody would want it to be.
“So if anything, it gives us the extra motivation that one day I will be able to manage Sunderland in a league game against Newcastle, when we both find ourselves ideally in the top league.”
On the potential of getting to a Wembley final, Ross added: “Once you progress from the group and you get to the knockout stages, it is appealing because you are only a few matches from Wembley.
“Naturally there is a lot of people that would get excited given the amount of support we would take to a cup final.
“I have never shied away from the fact that this is not our absolute priority but given the progress we have made we want to continue in it, get to the final and win it.
“We have shown a consistency in our approach to the Checkatrade Trophy games and we have been respectful of the competition.
“We are restricted to some of the changes you can make given the criteria.
“Each and every game we have selected a team based on the fixtures around it too.
“We want to progress in the competition, the game coming up on Saturday is a very important one for us.”