AS a player, Steve Bruce walked up the Wembley steps three times to collect a winner’s medal.
Success in the competition from the dug-out has not been so easy to come by – just three ventures beyond the fourth round in 12 attempts and none further than the quarter-finals.
Bruce will have had few opportunities better than this season with Sunderland without the distractions of either Europe or a relegation scrap.
The Black Cats’ boss was desperate for a cup run, yet realised the major prize lies on Sunday with the chance for redemption against Newcastle United.
Few could begrudge Bruce’s decision to rest his regulars after a needlessly demanding festive schedule, with the more vilified Magpies in everyone’s mind.
But what of the fringe players?
Could any feasibly play a part in Sunderland’s quest for Europe?
On this evidence, it wasn’t just no, it was more a case of have they even got a future at the club?
Andy Reid isn’t expected to be a Sunderland player for much longer anyway.
The Irishman’s contract is not likely to be renewed at the end of the season and he would be free to leave the Stadium of Light this month if a suitable offers comes in which secures his long-term future.
But the destinies of Paulo Da Silva, Cristian Riveros, Marcos Angeleri and, in a lot of respects, Jack Colback remain clouded.
READ the full verdict in Monday’s Echo