FOR a footballer who has never been to Wembley never mind played there, tomorrow's trip to the home of English football will be extra special.
Jack Colback can remember his first cup final as a schoolboy and his last as a Sunderland academy prospect, but now he is ready for the real deal.
Even though the team will not be named until later today, Colback has already had strong indications he will be involved against Manchester City tomorrow. Barring a late injury set-back, the first team squad's longest serving player will be involved in the Capital One Cup final: the club's first major final in 41 years.
Gustavo Poyet described how “it will be a very special day” for the flame-haired midfielder in his pre-match build up and Colback will be ready if the call does arrive to take on the star-studded City.
He might be used to taking on Premier League opposition week in and week out, but gearing himself up for an appearance at Wembley is not something he has ever experienced before.
"The last cup final I played in?” said Colback, taking his time to think before adding: “It was the Premier League reserve league final. We won our section of the league and played the national final against Aston Villa.
“It was a one-off game at Villa Park - and we lost so it isn't a great omen. It was a great experience but this is a different kettle of fish altogether.”
Colback remembers watching cup finals unfold on the television during his younger days, but his earliest memories are of those which took place at the Millennium Stadium while new Wembley was being constructed.
And while he might not be able to recall the identity of the two teams in the first showpiece he watched, he can talk about his first ever cup final.
"It was when I was with Cramlington Boys Club when I played my first,” said Colback, referring to the renowned junior club near to his Killingworth roots in North Tyneside which has produced a long list of professionals over the years.
“The one final I can remember is a tournament in Blackpool as a junior. We were the favourites and we managed to win the tournament 2-1 in the final for Cramlington.
"As a young lad it was great to win a cup with all your mates, brilliant. I was either eight or nine and came to Sunderland when I was about ten. It would be great to go and do it at Wembley with this group of team-mates and with all those fans behind us.
"I've never been there before, as a player or as a fan. It will be great to see what it's like and I'm looking forward to the day and taking in the atmosphere. Hopefully we can play well and send our fans home happy.”
The 24-year-old has had numerous requests for tickets for Sunday's cup final, even from people he has not seen for years from the largely Newcastle supporting Killingworth area he grew up in.
He said: "I've not got as many going as some. I know some of the players have been getting 40-odd tickets but I have got a few. I've got my kids going down too so that will be nice. It'd be nice to carry my two kids round the pitch at Wembley if we've won though.”
It remains to be seen what the extent of Colback's role in tomorrow's cup final will be, but having played in the November win over Manchester City at the Stadium of Light he is convinced Sunderland can spring a huge surprise again.
"We played them at home and we dominated them for periods, especially in the first half,” said Colback. “We were passing the ball really well and they couldn't really get the ball off us so there's no reason why we can't do the same again.
“We've won the four at our place 1-0 against them. The year before, we drew 3-3 at their place when we should have won as we were 3-1 up with five minutes to go.
“It's all about how you play on the day. We have worked on them all week and will try to deal with how they can hurt us and we can hurt them. We need to go out and play our own game. It's a huge pitch and we just need to have the confidence to do it.”
If Sunderland can figure out a way of further frustrating Manchester City, Colback's first experience of a Wembley cup final will be just perfect.