Nigel Clough has vowed Sheffield United will enter tomorrow’s grudge match at West Ham with all guns blazing after rubbishing claims his team is prepared to sacrifice a place in the Capital One Cup to enhance its promotion credentials.
The second round tie, which marks the first meeting between these two clubs since the Carlos Tevez Affair seven years ago, pits United against opponents who reached the semi-finals of the competition last season before being crushed 9-0 on aggregate by Manchester City.
Clough, appointed as United manager in October, has refused to be drawn into the politics which surround the fixture despite conceding it is “an interesting draw.”
But he warned Sam Allardyce’s side that United will not be intimidated by what promises to be a highly-charged atmosphere inside the Boleyn Ground.
“As far as we are concerned, this is another step towards Wembley,” Clough, who led the visitors into the FA Cup semi-finals last term, said. “That’s the way we approach all of these games.
“We don’t like losing and we want to win. We want to do as well as we possibly can no matter what the occasion, be it this tournament, the FA Cup or the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. They all offer a chance of getting to Wembley and walking out there is an honour as we know.”
An independent arbitration panel awarded United, 12th in the League One table following Saturday’s victory over Crawley Town, compensation worth £20m after West Ham were found guilty of breaching rules governing third party ownership of players when they signed Tevez and his compatriot Javier Mascherano during the 2006/07 Premier League campaign.
Although Mascherano joined Liverpool five months later, Tevez remained in London and scored the goal which preserved West Ham’s top-flight status while United, who had argued they should have been docked points rather than fined, were relegated to the Championship following a 2-1 defeat by Wigan Athletic.
“We might make some changes but the team we select will be one we think is capable of winning and doing a job,” Clough, speaking before last weekend’s contest, said.
“We don’t know what Sam will do but that’s beyond our control and, in any case, West Ham are a Premier League team so whoever is out there for them, well, you know they are going to be very good players.”