Lee Johnson delivers message to Sunderland squad ahead of Tranmere Rovers Papa John's Trophy final
Lee Johnson has warned his Sunderland side that they cannot underestimate Tranmere Rovers as attention turns towards the Papa John's Trophy final on Sunday.
Sunderland s 2-0 win over Portsmouth sees them go into the final unbeaten in eight games across all competitions.
Confidence is high but Johnson knows that is also true of their opponents.
Relegated on points-per-game from League One last season, Tranmere had a slow start to the season but have been in excellent form since Keith Hill took over and have lost just two of their last fifteen games.
Johnson knows only a win will make the afternoon a special occasion, and says his squad have to focus on their performance against an opponent with plenty of experience in their ranks.
Former Black Cats James Vaughan has been ruled out through injury but Johnson knows they have a number of other threats.
“We’re not going there for a day out to enjoy ourselves," Johnson said.
"Our attitude is very much that we’ve got to go and win at Wembley. It’s a game we want to win. The danger is that we’re playing a side from the league below, so there will be certain assumptions that go along with that. But we’re playing a team that are flying. "They’re doing well in the league and they’ve got a really experienced squad. In fact, I bet there’s as many, if not more, Championship appearances in that Tranmere side than there is in ours. You’ve got [David] Nugent in there, Vaughan, although he’s now injured, and players like [Jay] Spearing and [Liam] Feeney.
"These players are really experienced, and they can turn it on," he added.
"This certainly isn’t going to be a walk in the park or a day we can just go into with the mindset of enjoying ourselves.
"We’ve got to be really focused on our performance, and making sure we do all the bits that go into that extremely well.”
Sunderland's Fratton Park win, their first at that ground since 1997, has nevertheless left squad and supporters alike in high spirits ahead of the game.
Midfielder Josh Scowen praised his team-mates for their performance in a game that they controlled 'from start to finish'.
"I thought we controlled the game from start to finish," he said.
"There were a couple of little mistakes, giving them half chances, but I thought we controlled it, it was a really good performance.
"The control comes from us having that understanding, the personnel and the strengths and weaknesses.
"We've got a really strong bond at the moment and things are clicking for us.
"We're putting what we're doing in training into games and our performances are showing that.
"The gaffer's ideas are working, the boys are taking it on board and it's working for us at the moment.
"We'll go to Wembley full of confidence.
"It would have been for the fans to have been able to be there and it obviously won't the same for us without them there, but hopefully it'll still be enjoyable.
"We're going there to try and get that win for them."