48 long years of hurt are finally over for Sunderland. It might not have been the long-awaited promotion or a competition as prestigious as the FA Cup, but their Wembley hoodoo is over.
The Mackems have regularly lost on their travels to this part of London but on Sunday, they laid their problems to rest with a 1-0 win over Tranmere.
Everything at the Stadium of Light feels a lot more positive now. The Black Cats look in a good place to be promoted and they’ve now won their first trophy since 1973.
With Lee Johnson and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus at the helm, they appear to have finally struck up a recipe for success. Under Phil Parkinson and Stewart Donald, that never looked like happening.
Key to their revival has been Aiden McGeady, a player who capped off a remarkable turnaround on Sunday afternoon.
McGeady was the scorer of two goals when they lost the 2019 final to Portsmouth and he came up trumps again this weekend. On this occasion, his influential performance inspired a memorable victory.
However, if it wasn’t for Johnson, he probably would not have been in the XI on Sunday. The Irishman was alienated from the entire senior squad when Parkinson was at the helm.
McGeady was snapped at McDonald’s with Chris Maguire after a defeat in December 2019 and as a result, was transfer-listed by the club. He moved to Charlton on loan and then after returning to the north-east in the summer, didn’t get any minutes.
The winger earned his first outing of the 2020/21 campaign during Johnson’s opening match in charge. Since then, the pair haven’t looked back.
Only George Honeyman (12) has more assists (11) than McGeady in League One this season and he was at his creative best during the EFL Trophy final win on Sunday. He supplied the game’s only goal with a mouth-watering assist.
The 34-year-old picked up the ball just inside Tranmere’s half before taking several defenders out of the game with a sensational pass. Gooch ran onto it and then fired home with immense composure.
McGeady was the beating heart of Sunderland’s win, as he supplied a considerable eight key passes at Wembley. For context, that’s substantially more than his season average of 2.1 key passes per match.
He was a constant thorn in the Tranmere defence as McGeady also recorded four dribbles, the joint-highest number of any player on the field.
Perhaps most impressive, though, was his desire and energy. For someone in the twilight of his career, it would have been easy for McGeady to fade as the game went on. He didn’t however, ensuring he ran himself into the ground to get Sunderland up the pitch in the dying embers.
McGeady was the outcast at the start of the season but he is now the undoubted star of this Sunderland team. His turn around, like Sunderland’s in recent months, has been superb.