Sheffield United: Cup progress matters, says Wilson

Ready to rumble: Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson.
Ready to rumble: Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson.
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So the FA Cup has lost some of its lustre? Danny Wilson doesn’t believe a word.

Okay, so the world’s oldest domestic knockout tournament might not stir the emotions at grounds such as Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium and Stamford Bridge with quite the same force as the Champions League.

But Wilson, whose Sheffield United side visit Bristol Rovers in the first round later today, admits he still feels a frisson of excitement whenever the draw is made.

“For me, the FA Cup is magical,” Wilson said last night. “It hasn’t lost any of that one bit.

“I appreciate the very top clubs might view getting into Europe as being more important. But, although I can’t speak for them, I bet they’re still very keen to win this one too.

“Especially if they make it through to the later stages.”

“In our division and the one below I still think it’s massively important,” Wilson added.

“And, in any case, when people prioritise getting into the top four of the Premier League over the cup then that’s a business decision. I can understand that but I prefer to look at the cup from a football point of view.”

United, who climbed to second in League One following Monday’s victory over Portsmouth, travelled south yesterday searching for their fifth victory in as many games.

Rovers, 20th in League Two after winning only two of their last six fixtures, have been instilled with the same sense of purpose by their manager Mark McGhee.

“I love the FA Cup and I’m really looking forward to this game,” he said.

“They’ll be really difficult opponents for us and will be a big test for our young players. I’ve got to somehow spark a different reaction from the league games. This is a competition where there are giant-killings and we’ve got to make sure that we are one of the ones being mentioned.”

Rovers, who have received permission to field loanees Matthew Lund and Tom Eaves, are without suspended defender Tom Parkes.

However, with Fulham refusing to follow suit with Neil Etheridge, 21-year-old goalkeeper Sam Walker is poised to feature between the posts.

Walker, signed on a temporary transfer from Chelsea, has not started since being ousted in September.

“It is a game that has no bearing on our league form, so it is one we can go out and enjoy,” he said.

“I watched the game on Monday night and you can see why Sheffield United remain unbeaten. They are a very strong and organised side and it will be a tough test for us.

“It would be a shock if we could win, but it would be fantastic for the supporters if we could get a good result.”

Wilson, who spent four years in charge of Rovers’ arch-rivals Bristol City, used his pre-match press conference to warn about the atmosphere “The Gas fans will create” in an effort to inspire an upset.

“They’re very close to the pitch and I think a few people, if they’re not aware already, could be quite surprised.

“But we always get terrific travelling support and there have been quite a few matches already this season when it’s actually felt like we’re playing at home.

“But we’ve got to be ready for a battle and a fight.”