Proud Jack Ross has spoken of his delight at leading Sunderland to the Checkatrade Trophy final - and repaying the loyalty of the Black Cats fanbase.
Sunderland beat Bristol Rovers 2-0, Will Grigg and Lewis Morgan scoring the goals either side of half-time, to see the club into the March 31 final against Portsmouth.
Sunderland’s ultimate ambition this season is to win promotion back to the Championship but Ross was delighted to give the fans a trip to Wembley to look forward to as well.
Grigg scored his first goal from open play for Sunderland, firing home following Max Power’s pinpoint throughball before Morgan was first to react after Lynden Gooch’s effort was parried.
Ross said: “I have spoken often about us treating the competition seriously from the outset, picking teams that were right for the occasion.
“When you get to this stage of the tournament you don’t want the work to go to waste, the prize is big.
“To get to a Wembley final and a chance of winning silverware is huge, it doesn’t come around often.
“We treated the game properly and delighted to come out the right side of the result.”
Promotion is the aim but Ross is now targeting a league and cup double.
Ross added: “The ultimate reward for supporters will be taking the club back to the Premier League and the first part is to get out of this league this season.
“That will always be the focus and reward the fans properly.
“It is fair to say though that this gives them a little bit of payback for their loyalty, they came out and bought 20,000 season tickets before a ball had been kicked.
“I know how much the fanbase enjoyed the last visit to Wembley, having the weekend there and the occasion. I am sure they will do it again, they won’t take much notice it is a different competition.
“It is a release for them. I am proud the players have managed to provide that for the supporters.
“When it comes round the focus will be on winning the competition out right.”
Sunderland have now won four straight games, three in League One and last night’s semi-final at the Memorial Stadium.
Ross added: “We are in a good place right now as a squad.
“That has been reflected in a lot of recent performances.
“We are now getting reward with results. We have been consistent in selection, the couple of changes we did make are good payers.
“I have spoken enough about how they have trained, they were ready to go and Adam Matthews and Max Power showed that tonight.
“There is a good momentum and looking forward to the next two months.
“They are excited about the cup final.
“We will park it for a couple of weeks and then focus on it when it comes round.”