When entering through the main door at the Stadium of Light, Gus Poyet need only glance to his left to realise iconic status is within touching distance. A glass cabinet containing the brown overcoat, trilby hat and tracksuit of Bob Stokoe from the time of the 1973 FA Cup triumph offers a nod towards history.
Outside the stadium on Thursday afternoon, a television crew filmed Sunderland's legendary goalkeeper Jim Montgomery alongside Stokoe's statue. Sunderland are the epitome of a club which cherishes success on the big stage because it arrives so infrequently, as demonstrated by the plaudits bestowed on those involved in what was Sunderland's last, and only second, major cup win. On Sunday, Manchester City stand between Poyet and permanent adoration in one corner of the north-east.
"It's going to be special," promises Poyet of the Capital One Cup final. "This is my first season here and everything was very, very dark and sad when I arrived. Here and now we are 90 minutes, or 120, away from being the happiest people in England."
Poyet is aware of Stokoe's full-time Wembley run, into the arms of Montgomery, but won't mimmick it. "Those are the special moments," says the Sunderland manager. "Those are the moments that you talk about all the time. I don't like to plan it, otherwise it looks like you're copying someone else."
Poyet has immersed himself in this, his latest managerial challenge. Unlike several managers before him – Roy Keane, Martin O'Neill and Steve Bruce to name but three – he has set up home in Sunderland in a deliberate effort to understand the fabric of the community.
"The feeling of winning something is far beyond going down, spending two years in the Championship," he explains. "Why? You need to be here for 20 years and feel it like them, or not reach a final for 15 years, or not win one for more than 40. Only the people who have been here in the city supporting the club for so long really know. They have the feeling, not me. Me, I can say it but I can't feel it. You need to listen to them and that's why it's an incredible opportunity.
"I notice, especially in the young ones, they are going to be there and they are flying. They are so excited. It's almost like they haven't thought about who we are playing. They are just thinking about what they are going to do if we win the cup, which is good. It's a feeling, sometimes when you are inside the football club, that you don't realise. The players need to feel that, it's important to have the feeling of the fans.
"What I like is to make people happy and there is no better way then by winning a final, I can tell you that."
It is curious that what could transpire as one of the most memorable seasons in Sunderland's history started with a player revolt against Paolo Di Canio and, even now, could end in relegation. Poyet previously made little secret of the fact he would choose staying in the Premier League over the lifting of a cup; now, he clearly relishes this shot at glory.
"When I got the job and I got to the Academy of Light at a quarter to midnight, I was not even thinking about this," he adds. "Not even in a million years. I was only thinking about staying up. That was the aim, the challenge and a massive challenge that is still there. A big, big challenge.
"Football puts you in this situation and you need to try and take it, for sure. You're not going to let it go past. If you had asked me at my first press conference about the cup I would have told you to stop it and not to ask me about the cup. There was only one thing to talk about and that's the Barclays Premier League, but now we are here. Now if you ask any manager in England if they would like to be where we are, they would say yes because we have a chance to win something.
"I am delighted where we are because it looked like a really difficult challenge where we were and we have a bigger chance, a massive chance, now to survive in the Barclays Premier League and an incredible opportunity in the cup."
For club and country, Poyet has tasted defeat only once at Wembley, on penalties when a Chelsea player to Manchester United in the Charity Shield of 1997. "I won the FA Cup and drew with England with Uruguay," the 46-year-old says. "I even won there as a coach in the League Cup with Spurs."
If Poyet does it again, Sunderland immortality beckons.