Sunderland win the 2021 Papa John’s Trophy

The North East club won the trophy at Wembley

Ethan Todd
25th March 2021
Twitter @PapaJohnsTrophy
Sunderland AFC managed to secure a less than convincing yet imperative win in the 2021 Papa John’s Trophy final last Sunday, against a solid Tranmere Rovers side, lifting a cup at Wembley for the first time in almost 50 years.

Given the resurgence under Lee Johnson, seemingly getting Sunderland back to their best with a positive and intelligent footballing philosophy, many Sunderland fans will have been more confident than ever to finish victors of the contest.

With only three defeats in 25 games, the Englishmen has revitalised the hopes of all Sunderland fans, giving legitimate glimmers of hope for a return to the top tiers of English football.

However, Sunderland fans are all too aware that nothing is for certain at Wembley Stadium, and with Tranmere pushing well for promotion from League two that a win would be anything but guaranteed.

Sunderland approached the final missing recognised centre half partnering of Dion Sanderson and Bailey Wright, both of which have been exemplary under Johnson, forcing the utility-man Luke O’nien into centre back.

A quiet first half ensued of which could be said that Tranmere were playing the better level of football, with the puppet master McGeady drifting out on the wide left and the man on fiery form Charlie Wyke isolated by himself being aggressively marked by the Tranmere centre backs.

Shortly before the end of a fairly non-eventful half, the only recognised centre half Sunderland had on the field, Tom Flanagan, was taken off injured shortly before the break.

Wembley nerves and the occasion had clearly affected Sunderland in some capacity as they were reluctant to persist in their aggressive pressing style out of possession and were unable to form creative plays to get the ball to Wyke or McGeady in dangerous areas.

It was evident in the second half that the shape of Sunderland had been altered slightly, with McGeady roaming freely in the number 10 role, and Maguire and Gooch invertly attacking from wide areas occupying the space left free in the first half.

Just shy of the hour mark, McGeady pierced the Tranmere channel with a perfectly weighted through ball into Lynden Gooch, who in honesty may have had two touches maximum in the first half.

Gooch calmly lofted the ball over Scott Davies to break the deadlock and settle the nervous tension of the Black Cats.

Sunderland settled after Gooch’s goal and defended securely to see out their first victory at Wembley since the 1973 F.A Cup Final against Leeds United.

The magnitude of this victory is not simply a cup final but it showcases the revival of Sunderland AFC, with new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus watching his team lift the trophy, fuelling the side with even more confidence heading into the business end of the season; with automatic promotion in their crosshairs.

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AUTHOR: Ethan Todd
Aspiring football journalist studying at Newcastle University.

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