THREE days after chasing pounds, shillings and pence, Sheffield United turn their attention to a competition where the prize is purely glory.
The odds on Danny Wilson’s side lifting the FA Cup, even after a favourable third-round draw, might be longer than P. Diddy becoming the next Bond. But in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, which pits them against Coventry City this evening, the visitors from South Yorkshire are viewed as favourites to prevail.
Little wonder Wilson, surveying their Northern Area quarter-final at the Ricoh Arena, last night described himself as being “buoyed” by the thought of becoming the first United ‘manager’ to win a recognised knockout competition since club secretary John Nicholson in 1925.
“I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but somebody has got to win it and so why not us,” Wilson said. “For me, it actually becomes quite prestigious as the matches go along and gathers momentum.
“As far as I’m concerned - and I know I speak for the players too - we take this very seriously. It might not be our main objective but we treat it with respect just the same.”
Wilson, who tasted success in the final with Bristol City in 2003, has another reason to be excited by the prospect of a prolonged run in the JPT. Shaun Miller, a summer signing from Crewe Alexandra, used United’s meeting with Notts County in the previous round to kick-start his career at Bramall Lane and heads to the Midlands having scored five goals in four games, two of which came in Saturday’s FA Cup triumph over Port Vale.
Charlie Austin, now blazing a trail at Burnley, made his professional debut for Swindon in the tournament three seasons ago after being spotted playing for part-timers Poole.
Wilson, the manager responsible for handing Austin his big break, said: “Shaun can go on to replicate what Charlie is doing, I’m absolutely certain of that.
“He’s a very different player and he’s taken a different route but there’s no way we’ve seen the best of Shaun yet. Nowhere near.
“What I like about Shaun is that he’s unpredictable and defenders hate that.
“Okay, so he can try things that’s don’t always come off which can be quite frustrating. But you have to accept that.”
“We’d been watching Shaun for a while before we got him,” Wilson, whose side face either Accrington or Oxford in the next phase of the FA Cup, added. “We’d tried for him before and there was no way we could do anything given the figure Crewe quoted.
“But with the lad, (Nick) Powell, who has gone to Manchester United, doing so well there, the situation changed. We didn’t think Shaun would become available again but were obviously delighted when he did.”
With rules prohibiting wholesale changes, Wilson nevertheless challenged some of the youngsters set to fleshout the United bench to follow Miller’s lead and use the JPT as a springboard.
“They should make the most of it, “Wilson said. “This could be the start of a great career for someone.”