This is the reason why Jack Ross wants to reward Sunderland fans with Checkatrade Trophy Wembley final

Jack Ross is looking to reward Sunderland supporters’ loyalty this season with a Wembley final in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 8:12 pm
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 8:17 pm
George Honeyman scores against Plymouth Argyle.

Sunderland make the long trip to Bristol Rovers tonight for the one-legged semi-final clash at the Memorial Stadium, with Ross admitting excitement is building with the club so close to a cup final.

Ross is, of course, not taking anything for granted but he is keen to repay the faith of the huge fanbase.

Sunderland are in the third tier following successive relegations yet the support has never diminished, the cub averaging 30,000 plus this season.

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Ross’ last visit to the national stadium was to the old Wembley for that Euro 1996 England win over his native Scotland, Ross is aiming for happier memories this time round - provided they get there.

League One rivals Rovers stand in the way, though Sunderland will be confident having beaten Graham Coughlan’s side 2-0 a week ago in the league.

Asked what it would mean to manage at Wembley, Ross said: “I’ve done it consistently through my management career where I don’t really think about it from that point of view, I just look at it as my job to win games and try and make my club successful.

“It’s of much more significant to the players because they’re the ones who go on the pitch, and everyone associated with the club who’ve been through a tough couple of years.

“If I can bring a little bit of reward for their loyalty this season with a trip to London to see their team at Wembley, then brilliant.

“I’ve got some memories to put right because the last time I was there was 1996, Scotland v England. If anything I would like to put that right. I’ve not been back since – no wonder.”

Promotion to the Championship is the priority for Sunderland this season but fans, players and the management team alike would love a Wembley trip in the Checkatrade Trophy.

So, can Sunderland get excited about the game given the league is so important?

“I think we can get excited about it now,” said Ross.

“We’ve spoken about it as a staff because we have to plan ahead, but in terms of the playing squad we hadn’t, and the preparation for it really began in earnest once we’d got the Plymouth game out of the way.

“It was a quick turnaround but the players are acutely aware that they’re one game away from playing at Wembley and two wins away from winning the competition.

“That’s huge for players, regardless of what competition it is.

“Once the dust settled on Saturday’s game they looked forward to it and whoever plays will be desperate to win the game.”

Ross’ own semi-final record from his playing and managerial career is mixed, adding: “I’ve lost a couple, won once or twice to get to a final, I can’t remember! As manager I got to the equivalent (Scottish) final with St Mirren, so it’s probably a mixed bag.”