“RELIEVED is probably a good word to use.”

No-one in the Oxford United side will have more motivation to make up for last year’s trip to Wembley than John Lundstram.

Nailed-on to start in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final after an excellent season, the midfielder had the agony of watching the 3-2 defeat to Barnsley from the stands.

It was the second of a three-game ban he was serving for the first red card of his career, which could not have come at a worse time.

A year on, Lundstram can hardly believe his good fortune – not only will he get to walk on to the pitch, he will do so as skipper.

“If someone had said to me last year ‘don’t worry, you’ll come back in 12 months as captain’ it would’ve probably eased the pain a little bit,” he said.

“I’m so proud to be leading the lads out this year.

“It’s more for my mum and dad, they’ve been massive supporters of me and I’m made up for them that they can see me.”

There were many who felt Lundstram’s early-season struggles to replicate his form of 2015/16 were connected to inheriting the armband.

It is not something the former Everton trainee felt weighed heavily on him, but the discussion has long since faded.

United’s No 4 has grown into the role and knows already what he will say to the players in the huddle at 2.29pm on Sunday.

Lundstram said: “It will be along the lines of ‘these chances don’t come around very often in your career, make your family proud and do yourselves justice.

“’Everyone here is a good player. We’re at the final for a reason but you’ve just got to deliver’.”

Despite being only 23, this will be the third time Lundstram has been involved with a side at the national stadium.

Before last season he had also played in the League One play-off final, coming on in extra time and scoring from the spot as Leyton Orient lost a penalty shoot-out to Rotherham United in 2014.

Although chances have come around surprisingly regularly in a five-year career so far, Lundstram believes everyone should approach Sunday’s final as if it was their last shot at Wembley.

He said: “I think you have to treat it like that, because it’s never promised to you.

“No matter where your career takes you, these chances to play at the national stadium don’t come around very often.

“It’s a chance to make history.

“We didn’t quite do it in the final last year, but if we do it this time we’ll be a team people will talk about it for years to come.

“It’s a huge moment for the club and the players.”