IT might only be the final of the Papa John’s Trophy, and it might be almost certain to take place in front of 90,000 empty seats, but when Sunderland’s players look ahead to their visit to Wembley next month, they see the potential to be involved in a landmark moment in the club’s history.

Sunderland have played seven matches at Wembley in the last four decades, and have lost on each occasion. One FA Cup final, two League Cup finals, three play-off finals and an appearance in the final of the Checkatrade Trophy. Seven shots at glory; seven intense disappointments.

So, while next month’s Trophy final against Tranmere Rovers will be a somewhat surreal experience with supporters seemingly certain to be absent, it nevertheless provides Lee Johnson and his squad with an opportunity to write their names into Wearside’s footballing folklore.

Score the winning goal underneath Wembley’s gleaming arch on March 14, and you will be a red-and-white legend forever.

“People think it’s just the Papa John’s, but you want to win a trophy,” said Callum McFadzean, who played at left-back as Sunderland saw off Lincoln City on penalties on Tuesday night. “For the club, for myself - I want to get that silverware around my neck.

“Regardless of what it is, we want to do it for us, the club and the fans. It’s been that many times the club have missed out and that just adds even more to it for me personally. I want to go there and do it for the fans because we want success at this club.”

Sunderland’s last appearance in the Trophy final was captured as part of the ‘Sunderland Til I Die’ documentary, with supporters taking over some of London’s most famous landmarks on the eve of a game that ended with penalty heartbreak at the hands of Portsmouth.

McFadzean watched the scenes on Netflix, and while he is understandably disappointed there will not be more than 40,000 Wearsiders in the capital next month, he is desperate to help make amends for 2019’s despair.

“I’ve seen a few of the episodes, but since I’ve come, I’ve not had the fans here,” he said. “That’s a bit gutting. Hopefully, the time will come soon and we can get them back in, behind the boys and roaring us on.

“It’s going to be weird and a bit frustrating that we haven’t got the fans at Wembley with us, but I guess everyone is in the same boat at the moment.”

Before taking on Tranmere, Sunderland will play six league games, starting with a trip to Burton Albion this weekend, and the hope is that the momentum generated by the Papa John’s Trophy run will help fuel a successful promotion push.

“It’s exciting times for the club,” said McFadzean. “You have to be aware it doesn’t just happen and you have to believe in the process and let the process take it. But it’s going in the right direction, and once this club is going in the right direction, it’ll be unstoppable really.”