Insider: Not a priority but Checkatrade Trophy final offers Sunderland and Portsmouth an occasion to celebrate after dark days

Phil Smith, from the Sunderland Echo, gives his thoughts ahead of the Black Cats’ Checkatrade Trophy final against Pompey.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:41 pm
Midfielder Grant Leadbitter could be key to Sunderland's Checkatrade Trophy chances. Picture by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

It’s not a priority match for either team.

But it does provide both clubs with the chance to celebrate how far they’ve come since the darker days before the serious tension at the end of the season.

Given how bad things have been and everything Sunderland have been through over the past couple of years, it’s just an occasion everyone is looking ahead to.

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Acrrington on Wednesday is arguably a bigger game for Jack Ross’ men.

But the beauty of this competition is that if you lose it’s not the end of the world, you can quickly focus on the league again.

And if you do win, it can provide a big momentum boost.

It’s also a good experience if you do end up in the play-offs, after having already played at Wembley.

Midfielder Grant Leadbitter could be key to Sunderland's Checkatrade Trophy chances. Picture by Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Although, just like Portsmouth, the main focus remains on the league.

The mood is pretty optimistic around the club going into the final.

Grant Leadbitter, Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady have all played in big games and at Wembley.

Sunderland are well equipped to play in a final in that sense.

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Manager Jack Ross strengthened his squad in January so the loss at Fratton Park earlier in the season will have no bearing.

Leadbitter and Lewis Morgan both came to the club during the previous window.

Both teams are in a very different place from where they were at that point.

Winger McGeady will look to continue his impressive form in the Black Cats’ bid for Checkatrade Trophy glory.

The Republic of Ireland international has been one of the best players this season.

Midfielder Leadbitter has also been a great acquisition since arriving in January.

He could be the key in the final.

Leadbitter’s is a threat with from set-piece situations, has really good ability and probably shouldn’t be playing in League One.

He came back because it was his boyhood club and it was a bargain for them.

Both teams will be pleased that the other is in the final.

It’s going to feel like a normal cup final and not a Checkatrade Trophy match, with all the fans that will be in the stadium.

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