Five weeks ago and having just been beaten heavily by Crewe Alexandra, the prospect of Sheffield United making even one appearance at Wembley this season seemed positively remote, by James Shield.
But, nine games and as many wins later, there has been a remarkable change in mood among Nigel Clough’s first team squad.
So much so in fact that Chris Porter, whose goals have helped propel them into next month’s FA Cup semi-finals, yesterday refused to dismiss the possibility of making three visits to the national stadium ahead of tomorrow’s League One fixture against Carlisle.
Eleven points behind sixth-placed Peterborough with 13 matches remaining, the odds on United securing play-off qualification are still longer than Jeb Bush becoming Republican nominee.
However, as Porter revealed following Sunday’s historic triumph over Charlton Athletic, having reached the last four of the world’s greatest domestic knockout tournament, his colleagues are now daring to dream.
“You just never know. Is it impossible? I’d have said it was impossible for us to get this far in the cup,” Porter said. “It would be nice to think so but we’ll see.
“Even prior to this nine game run, I’ve done interviews where I’ve said I think we’ve been unlucky. Where I don’t think results have reflected our performances in the league.
“It’s no surprise to me, with some of the players we’ve got here though, that we’ve got ourselves into a much better position now.
“And with the manager and the way he and his staff go about things, there’s a really good feeling in the club. It’s a great place to be around.”
United, unbeaten in all competitions since that defeat at Gresty Road, are expected to reshuffle their starting eleven for the meeting with Graham Kavanagh’s side as Clough looks to cope with the demands of a gruelling fixture schedule which demands they must play eight times before April’s semi-final against Hull City.
Kavanagh, whose team won September’s contest between these two teams at Brunton Park, is grappling with some selection dilemmas of his own after learning that Matty Robson, Sean O’Hanlon and former United midfielder Paul Thirlwell are all unlikely to be available due to injury. James Berrett is also doubtful having suffered a suspected dead leg during Saturday’s loss at Port Vale.
Negotiations aimed at retaining the services of fellow loanees Danny Redmond and Jordan Pickford, from Wigan and Sunderland and respectively, concluded last night.
“Both lads have been great for us since joining,” Kavanagh said. “The parent clubs have been absolutely fantastic with us and I think they know that the boys are getting valuable pitch time and experience here.”