IT has been a miserable few years to be a Sunderland supporter.

As if the embarrassment of suffering back-to-back relegations was not bad enough, there was also the pain of having to sit through an entire year of home matches without witnessing a single victory.

Then, to rub further salt into the wound, the rest of the nation got to revel in Sunderland’s collective misery when the whole thing was plastered over Netflix.

So while tomorrow’s Checkatrade Trophy final against Portsmouth might not mean much in the grand footballing scheme of things, it is hard to think of a fanbase that is more deserving of a day out at Wembley.

As chief executive Charlie Methven put it so neatly in yesterday’s souvenir pull-out in The Northern Echo, “This is the point at which Sunderland stops being a laughing stock”.

In fairness to Methven and his fellow owner, Stewart Donald, the club has been on the right track for a while now.

On the pitch, Jack Ross is presiding over a team challenging for promotion at the top of League One. Off it, Sunderland’s new regime have stabilised the financial situation and successfully rebuilt the relationship between the club and its fans.

More than 40,000 of those fans will be heading to Wembley tomorrow, and we hope they have a fantastic day. Football remains a cornerstone of North-East life, and it is great to see Sunderland putting a smile on the face of so many people once again.