Since 1973, Sunderland have travelled eight times to Wembley. Eight matches. Eight losses. Each time we’ve waited with anticipation and excitement, and every single time we’ve lost and come home utterly disappointed.
Whether it’s missing a penalty and losing to a relegation rival in Norwich City in the Milk Cup in 1985 to scoring 10 goals in total and still losing to Charlton Athletic on penalties in the Championship Play Off Final in 1998, or maybe losing to a mis-hit Yaya Toure strike against Man City in the League Cup Final 2014, our fans have seen it all.
The competition itself doesn’t particularly excite me, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t missing the cup final weekend experience as a whole. Walking down Wembley Way, spotting friends and people you sit near at the SOL, or on social media - it’s all great fun.
Then there’s Trafalgar Square or Covent Garden beforehand... the pictures, the atmosphere, the noise. Of course, being inside Wembley for the game is the icing on the cake. The sea of red and white, and watching the lads take to the field with 40,000 supporters roaring them on is just unbelievable.
All of that is missing this time around, though. Yes, our team will be at Wembley, but it’s not going to be the same when we’re not there. It would be the most Sunderland thing ever to win the game when there are no fans there to witness it.
Nobody gave Sunderland a chance in 1973 and few will give Tranmere a chance tomorrow. They, like we were in ‘73, are a league below, unfancied - a plucky underdog that some people will believe have to raise their game to have a chance. There will inevitably be a lift from Tranmere. Their players will fight tooth and nail to get the result.
Normally, I’d be worried. Should I be this confident?
This is far from the best Sunderland team I’ve seen. So, why am I so confident? Well... we’ve started to put some wins together. Playing good football, scoring goals, with good individual performers and momentum on our side - few would bet against us ending our Wembley hoodoo.
I’m not normally one to get carried away... but why not, eh?
We’ll never get a better chance.