Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, last night insisted his team enter Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Hull City as huge underdogs, writes James Shield.
But the former England international, whose players are the first League One team to reach this stage of the competition since 2001, acknowledged that victories over Aston Villa and Fulham in previous rounds means the tag will not sit comfortably with many observers.
“Our chances are slim because we’re playing a team two divisions above us,” Clough said. “And with the quality the Premier League teams have, they are going in as huge favourites. I can’t see how anyone can argue with that.
“Maybe we get given a little bit more chance by people because of what we have done so far in the competition. But in 90 minutes, they have to score against us.”
Dismissing suggestions that his words mark the first phase of the psychological war surrounding the match, Clough added: “It is so many years since a League One team got to this stage. And I don’t think one has got to the final so that’s why Hull are favourites.
“The further you go on, it becomes less of a chance to knock three teams out.
“Hull will be the sternest test. I would have said that even if it had been the round before.
“Never mind Wembley. They are used to the bigger games going to Old Trafford and so on.”
Clough, meanwhile, confirmed that Chris Porter had missed training yesterday after suffering from back spasms ahead of the midweek win over Rotherham. Terry Kennedy will also travel to United’s base near St Albans, Hertfordshire, despite receiving treatment for a knee complaint.
“We might tell the lads the team on Saturday but usually it is 90 minutes before kick-off so we might stick to that,” Clough said. “That is how we normally do it and we’ll talk together as a staff.
“No-one will not be involved. We only have an 18-man squad.
“ That’s the thing with a smaller squad is everyone has a chance to be involved. It can be demoralising to sit in the stand on a big occasion like this.
“This is not a day out. That is why we are keeping our preparations and routine the same so we expect attitude and approach to be the same once the game starts.”