TWO Sunderland fans taking the long road to Wembley have seen their team beat them to it!
Sunderland supporters Andy Fury and Mark Tearney were today getting set for the latest leg of an epic journey following the FA Cup from its first kick to the showpiece final in May.
But the Black Cats this week ensured they would beat them to the national stadium by booking their place in the Capital One Cup final in March.
It’s an achievement the dogged pair laughingly labelled both “hugely ironic” and “cruel”, after spending months clocking up the miles in their own cup quest.
Mr Fury, a comedian from Hebburn, and pal Mr Tearney, a civil servant from Gateshead, have already taken in 14 FA Cup ties, up and down the country, as they follow the winners of each round all the way to the cup final.
But if they’d cheered on Sunderland from the stands in the League Cup they would have their route to London set – with only one away trip to Manchester to navigate along the way.
The pair’s marathon mission kicked off back in August with West Auckland Town’s 5-0 thumping of Tow Law Town in the competition’s extra-preliminary qualifying round in August.
Nine rounds, 14 games, dozens of goals, one abandoned match, hundreds of pounds and countless miles later, the pair are in the West Midlands to see Birmingham City and Swansea City battle for a place in round five this afternoon.
The unique FA Cup journey, titled Cup Runnings, is being recorded in a podcast and photo-blog after each game.
As well as documenting their own experiences, Andy and Mark have spoken to a diverse range of people involved with clubs along the way – from players and managers to fans, managers’ dads and players’ grannies.
They feature famous names such as ex-England international David James and, in the recent episode, Birmingham’s assistant manager Terry McDermott.
Andy, 31, said, “We’d all but given up on visiting Wembley for a cup final with Sunderland.
“It’s hugely ironic that they’ve reached a cup final in the season we’ve stopped watching them, but in a different competition to the one we’re following.”
Mark, 35, added: “The football gods have been cruel.
“We’ve already had a 650-mile round journey to an abandoned game in Crawley and various replays.
“I never thought I’d say it, but Sunderland reaching a cup final just seems cruel.”
The Cup Runnings duo will be publishing a book, titled Pies, Peas and Dreams, which they expect to release in summer.
The duo could still enjoy an FA Cup return to the Stadium of Light, with Sunderland bidding for a cup double with a home game against non-league Kidderminster Harriers today.