The Black Cats take on Lee Bowyer’s Charlton Athletic at Wembley with a prize of a place in the Championship at stake.
Charlie Wyke is expected to lead the Sunderland attack in the re-run of the 1998 second tier promotion decider after moving to the Stadium of Light from the Bantams last summer. That £500,000 deal included a clause whereby Bradford will receive an additional £150,000 if Jack Ross’s side go up.
One man determined to block that payment is Bowyer, whose Charlton side reached the final only after being taken to penalties by Doncaster Rovers.
The former Leeds United midfielder has done a hugely impressive job at The Valley. After leading the Addicks into the play-offs last season, Bowyer has earned plenty more plaudits this time around en route to a third-placed finish.
He has done so to the background of unrest among supporters firmly against how owner Roland Duchatelet runs the club.
Duchatelet will not be at Wembley to watch a Charlton side that Bowyer has deliberately built in the image of what he played in, David O’Leary’s Leeds.
“That is what I have tried to build,” said the 42-year-old, who played alongside Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith and Harry Kewell at Elland Road. “I played in a similar side to that at Leeds. We did well there because we were a team.
“I have let the lads know from day one that we will not carry anyone who will play for themselves as an individual.
“The group we have put together is an exceptional and unique group, and I have said that for a long time now.
“Form is good because it puts you into a good place. Our players and the football club, as a whole, is in a good place.
“That was not the case when I first took over, but now all of a sudden everyone is happy and smiling. That is from hard work.
“You must know that your friend you are playing alongside is going to help you if you are having a bad time, or if you are caught out of position.”
Bowyer, out of contract in the summer, added: “It is still a game of football between two teams, nothing changes there. It is looking at their strengths and weaknesses, making sure we put the right side out, and that everyone is ready physically and mentally.”