THE Lamex Stadium is only 30 miles from Wembley.
But, as far as Michael Doyle, the Sheffield United captain is concerned, is might as well be three thousand.
Indeed Doyle, who is expected to captain Danny Wilson’s side when they begin their League One play-off campaign at Stevenage tomorrow, revealed last night he has even told family and friends back home
in Ireland not to bother him with talk of a trip to the capital later this month.
“I was speaking on the phone to my dad yesterday and he said he’ll come over for the final. I told him don’t even mention the final,” Doyle revealed.
“If we start talking about Wembley now then we’re setting ourselves up for a big fall. There’s a lot of work to do so personally I don’t even see the point in bringing it up.”
Not that Doyle’s reticence to indulge his loved ones with talk of winning promotion beneath the iconic arch should be interpreted as a lack of self-belief or confidence in United’s ability to overcome a team they have failed to beat twice since August. Rather, the former Coventry City and Leeds midfielder prefers to focus solely on implementing the masterplan Wilson and his assistant Frank Barlow devised at Shirecliffe earlier this week.
Doyle said: “The manager has told us to go out there and be proud. To get 90 points over the course of a season is a tremendous achievement so the fact we finished third tells you a lot about the quality in this division.”
Doyle congratulated rivals Sheffield Wednesday on pipping Wilson’s men to the runners-up berth behind champions Charlton Athletic - “Though it’s hard to say” - but reassured supporters the draws against Exeter City and Stevenage which contributed to United’s failure to secure a top-two finish will not cast a shadow over tomorrow’s game.
“Of course we were disappointed when we knew we hadn’t gone up but the real disappointment came the week before when we drew 2-2 (with Stevenage) at home.
“The great thing, though, is that now we’ve got another opportunity. If people want to feel sorry for themselves and dwell then that’s up to them.”
United spent over 10 weeks in second place before being over-taken by Wednesday following their previous meeting with Gary Smith’s side. Wilson’s charges completed the regular season at St James’ Park last weekend when a late goal denied them a deserved win having played nearly an hour with 10 men following James Beattie’s red card.
With Ched Evans and Lecsinel Jean-Francois among those also ruled out of the visit to Hertfordshire and Monday’s return at Bramall Lane, United have little room for manoeuvre in terms of selection. But, Doyle insisted, they have limitless reserves of something equally important in pressurised situations.
“We’ve got character,” he said. “We’re desperate for promotion and we know exactly what’s in front of us and what we must do.”