Tranmere Rovers will be hoping they can pull off a shock result in the Papa John’s Trophy final on Sunday, as they prepare to take on League One side Sunderland.
The Superwhites are currently sat fifth in the fourth-tier standings, and are just five points adrift of league-leaders Cheltenham Town heading into the final 13 matches of this year’s campaign.
It’s certain to be a tricky test for the League Two side though, as they come face-to-face with promotion-chasing Sunderland at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Lee Johnson’s side are in contention to make a timely return to the second-tier of English football this term, with the Black Cats sat
But Sunderland will know that they won’t have it all their way, with Tranmere Rovers having some experienced players in their side, that have played at a higher level than they’re currently at. David Nugent and Jay Spearing are classic examples of that, and they’ll be eager to pick up a piece of silverware at Wembley.
Speaking exclusively to Football League World’s Jacob Potter, former Tranmere Rovers and Chelsea winger Pat Nevin admitted that there is no pressure on his former team heading into the game, and that the players won’t be phased by the prospect of playing at the home of English football.
“There’s two parts to it. Those experienced players will really help and you look at Jay Spearing and he’s no stranger to Wembley with a big club in Liverpool! But I think it’s a number of things. You need those types of players with experience who are calm, but there are other players at Tranmere that have been there before! Some of those players won’t be fearing Wembley, they’ll be like ‘it’s Wembley again is it?’
“I don’t think there will be any panic or fear about it. There’s no pressure and no expectation going into it. Just go out and enjoy yourself, play your best. Coming into this one in good form really helps and they have been in good form. The start of the season was quite scary, because you looked at the results and thought it could be a relegation because you never know!
“But then a fantastic run after that, and it has been brilliant, getting into a position now where you can see the possibility of going up. It’s a good long way through the season now so it’s not a stupid thing to say. There’s plenty of players with experience in the squad, and they would at least like to get one more win at Wembley.”
Tranmere have already shown in the past that they can beat teams that are challenging for promotion into the Championship, having beaten both Peterborough United and Oxford United in the earlier rounds of this year’s competition.
Nevin went on to insist that Keith Hill’s side will be playing with no fear during the match, with Sunderland being 25 places above them in the Football League pyramid.
“For this game, absolutely there’s no-fear. It definitely helps! You never quite know until you put yourself against the best teams, and sometimes it takes a game or two to think ‘actually we belong here’. I think this game, and those games against Oxford and Peterborough have definitely lifted the Tranmere players.
“They’ll be thinking we’ve been down there, but we’re on our way back up now. To be fair, Sunderland are a different question though I think.
“Two or three years ago, Tranmere were out of the Football League, whereas Sunderland were near the Premier League! I know it’s only one division apart nowadays but the players will be thinking that this is another big step, and they’ll want to see if they can take it. I know the Tranmere players won’t be fearful of it.”
Kevin Phillips/Pat Nevin will be a studio guest for Quest’s highlights of the Papa John’s Trophy Final on Sunday. Stream on discovery+.