The ex-Liverpool midfielder, in-form striker and makeshift centre-back: Key men for Sunderland vs Tranmere Rovers in Papa John's Trophy final

Sunderland and Tranmere Rovers are preparing for this weekend’s Papa John’s Trophy final – but who are the players fans will need to keep an eye on at Wembley Stadium?

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 5:00 pm
Sunderland striker Charlie Wyke.
Sunderland striker Charlie Wyke.

We’ve taken a closer look at some of the key men for both sides who are likely to have a big say in the final result of the match.

Charlie Wyke (Sunderland)

Sunderland’s top scorer has been in scintillating form since Lee Johnson’s appointment in December – operating in a system which utilises the striker’s strengths.

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Only Peterborough’s Jonson Clarke-Harris has scored more goals in League One than Wyke this season, and the Black Cats frontman has been clinical in front of goal.

Wyke, 28, has been potent in the air so Tranmere will have to find a way to stop the supply for the towering striker.

Peter Clarke (Tranmere)

The man who will be tasked with stopping Wyke is experienced defender Peter Clarke.

At 39-years-old, the well-travelled centre-back has been a key player for Tranmere since joining the club from Fleetwood at the start of the campaign.

Clarke has played every minute of every league game and even chipped in with three goals to help Rovers mount a promotion challenge in League Two.

Aiden McGeady (Sunderland)

There’s no doubt Sunderland’s talented winger is the main player Tranmere will have to try and stop.

The 34-year-old was recalled to the Black Cats’ side by Johnson in December after being frozen out by former boss Phil Parkinson.

It’s no surprise Sunderland’s results have improved since then, with McGeady providing ammunition for Wyke with crosses from the left flank.

Liam Feeney (Tranmere)

Another experienced operator who has dropped down to League Two but is still performing consistently.

The former Bournemouth, Millwall and Bolton winger joined Tranmere at the start of the season and has featured in 27 league games this term.

Feeney, now 34, has been Rovers’ most creative player this campaign, contributing with seven assists and three goals in all competitions.

Tranmere will need someone to convert those chances, though, after top scorer James Vaughen was ruled out with a knee injury.

Pacy strike Kayne Woolery may start in his place up front.

Luke O’Nien (Sunderland)

The versatile operator and fans favourite was excellent in Sunderland’s win at Portsmouth last time out.

With several injury setbacks in defence, O’Nien, 26, has slotted into the backline seamlessly alongside Dion Sanderson in recent weeks.

Sanderson is ineligible for the final, while Bailey Wright is also out with a calf issue.

It’s therefore likely O’Nien will continue to play at centre-back, where he has been commanding in the air and comfortable in possession.

Jay Spearing (Tranmere)

The former Liverpool midfielder joined Rovers at the start of the season after his contract at Blackpool expired.

Spearing, 32, has missed just one league game for his new side this campaign and often sets the tempo at the base of midfield in a 4-3-3 system.

That will be tougher to do against higher-league opponents when Tranmere are likely to see less of the ball.

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