A look at Sunderland’s Wembley woe as they bid to end hoodoo against Tranmere

PA Sport staff
·4-min read

Sunderland will bid to end 48 years of Wembley hurt on Sunday when they take on Tranmere for the Papa John’s Trophy.

Since stunning Leeds in 1973 to win the FA Cup, the Black Cats have been to Wembley eight times and returned home disappointed on each occasion.

Here, the PA news agency looks at their tale of woe at the famous venue.

1985: League Cup final, Sunderland 0 Norwich 1

Milk Cup Final.
Norwich, including Steve Bruce (back row, third left) celebrate their 1985 Wembley win over Sunderland (PA)

Sunderland were left to rue Clive Walker’s penalty miss after Asa Hartford’s shot early in the second half deflected in off defender Gordon Chisholm for the only goal of a final which was low on quality.

1988: Football League Centenary Tournament, Sunderland 0 Wigan 0 (Wigan won on penalties)

Football League Centenary Tournament – Final – Nottingham Forest v Sheffield Wednesday – Wembley
Tranmere had a better day at the Football League Centenary Tournament at Wembley (PA)

The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Football League was played over two days under the Twin Towers, with teams earning a place based on their form over a specified time. Sunderland drew the 40-minute first round contest against Division Three rivals Wigan, before losing on penalties. Fourth Division Tranmere fared better, beating top-flight Wimbledon and Newcastle and only losing to eventual winners Nottingham Forest in a semi-final shoot-out.

1990: Division Two play-off final, Sunderland 0 Swindon 1

Soccer – Barclays League Division Two – Playoff Finals – Swindon Town v Sunderland – Wembley Stadium
Sunderland defenders Reuben Agboola, left, and John MacPhail, right, battle for the ball with Swindon forward Steve White at Wembley in 1990 (PA)

Gary Bennett’s first-half own-goal settled a poor match in the Wembley sun – but there was to be a twist with Sunderland taking Swindon’s place in Division One after the Wiltshire team were punished for making illegal payments. Denis Smith’s team did not make the most of their good fortune and were relegated after one season.

1992: FA Cup final, Sunderland 0 Liverpool 2

Chelsea v Sunderland – FA Cup Sixth Round – Stamford Bridge
John Byrne (second left) helped Sunderland to Wembley in 1992 but there was no happy ending against Liverpool (PA)

Sunderland striker John Byrne had scored in every round until the final, but could not add to his tally of seven goals at Wembley. He wasted the best chance of the first half when he miskicked from close range and favourites Liverpool took advantage after the break with goals from Michael Thomas and Ian Rush.

1998: Championship play-off final, Sunderland 4 Charlton 4 (Charlton won on penalties)

Charlton V Sunderland 3
Sunderland-born striker Clive Mendonca was Charlton’s hero (PA)

Regarded by many as one of the greatest games under the Twin Towers, the teams had shared eight goals after 120 minutes of action, with Clive Mendonca – brought up on Wearside – scoring three of Charlton’s four against the team he supported. After 12 successful penalties, Sunderland were the first to blink as Michael Gray’s weak spot-kick in a sudden death shoot-out was saved by Sasa Ilic, meaning the Addicks were promoted to the Premier League.

2014: League Cup final, Sunderland 1 Manchester City 3

Soccer – Capital One Cup – Final – Manchester City v Sunderland – Wembley Stadium
Fabio Borini opened the scoring in the 2014 League Cup final (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Fabio Borini gave the underdogs a first half lead in their first appearance at the ‘new’ Wembley but Yaya Toure’s stunning long-range equaliser lifted City. Samir Nasri put Manuel Pellegrini’s men ahead soon after and Jesus Navas capped the impressive comeback at the end.

2019: EFL Trophy, Sunderland 2 Portsmouth 2 (Portsmouth won on penalties)

Portsmouth v Sunderland – Checkatrade Trophy – Final – Wembley Stadium
Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole, second left, missed his spot-kick in the 2019 EFL Trophy final (Adam Davy/PA)

Aiden McGeady gave Sunderland a first-half lead, Pompey hit back through Nathan Thompson and Jamal Lowe, only for McGeady to equalise in the closing stages of extra-time and take the game to penalties. Nine of the 10 were scored, with Lee Cattermole’s miss proving costly.

2019: League One play-off final, Sunderland 1 Charlton 2

Charlton Athletic v Sunderland – Sky Bet League One Play-off – Final – Wembley Stadium
Charlton celebrate at Sunderland’s expense – again (Mike Egerton/PA)

More misery at the hands of Charlton. A calamitous own goal from Naby Sarr gave Sunderland the perfect start but Ben Purrington levelled before the break and Patrick Bauer’s last-gasp strike ensured a third season in the third tier of English football for the Black Cats.