George Honeyman has this message for Sunderland as he reflects on the journey from two relegations to a play-off final
George Honeyman has urged Sunderland to build on the spirit created at the club this season in the coming years.
The Black Cats have the chance to seal an instant return to the Championship this Sunday in the League One play-off final against Charlton Athetic.
Sunderland finished the regular season on a disappointing note but showed the resilience against Portsmouth that has made them one of the toughest sides to beat in the Football League.
The club captain knows Sunderland will be judged on whether they can get over the line but insists their achievements so far should make everyone at the club proud.
And he says that spirit is what should carry the club forward in future seasons.
“I think it's the characters we've brought into the club [that have created it], the manager, the new owners, the players who have been brought in are good people and there were already really good people here," he said.
"We had a really good backroom staff with people like Craig Russell and Peter Brand [physio], all of these sort of people who help make a club.
"They've always been there but it's been too imbalanced with not enough people that care about the club and now we have a proper balance of people who want to see Sunderland achieve success. It's just a nice place to be and it's something that the club have to really build on because if we get it right we can go on and have a successful few years with the football club.
“We've got a squad that will work no matter what and a manager and coaching staff who are the same," he added.
"It's a great recipe for success.
“To think we have a one-off game to get promotion, we would have snapped your hand off for it in pre-season.
“From back-to-back relegations and finishing bottom of the table... I know that was the Premier League and Championship, but it was a negative, losing culture as a football club we have to be realistic and for it to have turned like this in ten months and to have one-off shot to win promotion is fantastic.
“Two trips to Wembley? Everyone at the club has to be so proud."
Sunderland will travel to the national staium in confident mood after finally edging out Portsmouth.
Those defeats to Fleetwood Town and Southend United had affected the mood on Wearside but the exceptional shutout at Fratton Park changed all that.
“We only lost five (league) games all season and two of them were the last couple when we knew our fate anyway," he said.
"They were tough games to play in against teams that were fighting for everything when we realistically had nothing to fight for.
“It's not right but that's human nature.
“But I'm always very confident in us as a squad that when we know our fate and we know who we're playing and what the fall-out is that we are going to produce and I think we have all season in big games. I'm so happy and proud for everyone in the club and now I just want to finish it off and lift some silverware for the club at the end of what has already been a successful season.
“We knew that going into the [secong leg] after the last few weeks of football, it's been mad and no lead's been safe," he added.
“I think we knew what Pompey were all about. We knew they'd huff and puff and put it up to their big lad and try to win second balls. We expected what was coming, which was a nice feeling going into the game.
“Ultimately it's tough because you're thinking you just need a 0-0. We knew we were going to create chances and we thought we would score because there'd only been one [previous league] game all season where we hadn't [at Barnsley].
“We didn't score but I felt fairly comfortable."
Charlton boss Lee Bowyer believes Sunderland's previous Wembley experience will make them favourites for SUnday's clash.
Honeyman saus its not the 'be-all and end-all' but admits 'it can only help.'
“I don't think it's the be-all and end-all but I think it can only help because it wasn't like we froze in the headlights when we there last time, in fact the first half was probably one of our best performances of the season," he said.
"To be able to draw on that experience should help us and I don't think there's been a big game all season where we haven't froze or performed, so I take great comfort from taking that into the play-off final.”