Should the FA Cup semi-finals really be played at Wembley or at a neutral venue?
Many feel Wembley should be the ultimate prize for the final of the world’s greatest knockout competition. However, the delighted reaction of Nigel Clough after Sheffield United’s quarter-final win over Charlton, suggests he’s more than pleased the semi-finals are there.
The former England goalkeeper David James was in the tunnel as a member of BT Sport’s commentary team and he noted that Clough reaction.
“It was interesting” said James who numbered Liverpool, Villa and Manchester City among his clubs and won an FA Cup medal with Portsmouth in 2008.
“Nigel clenched his first and said ‘That’s that, we’ve got to Wembley.’ I thought it was interesting that he said that rather than say they were in the semi-final.”
James believes United are emerging as a formidable side. “I was at their second round game at Cambridge; that was a tricky proposition because Cambridge were going well at the top of the Skrill Premier with an excellent home record. But the Blades did such a professional job, they were so controlled.
“I’ve seen them since and they are well organised and have been hard to beat as their record recently shows. They clearly have a chance and the greater expectation will be on Hull as a Premier League side.”
James, who played over 900 club games and gained 53 England caps, took particular interest in watching United goalkeepers Mark Howard and George Long doing their warm-up.
“I was impressed. I thought there was a rapport between them and they worked well” he said. “George had been the regular from early last season through into this one and Nigel Clough made a big call to make the change. But Mark has done well and 12 clean sheets in the last 16 games, although George played on Tuesday, is phenomenal. I shall watch them closely at Wembley. I shall be interested to see if they do anything different. It’s easy to go into a foreign environment and do something different, have your focus distracted. That applies to the whole team and it becomes a distraction if you’re not careful.
“It’s a great achievement for a League One side to be in the semi-finals. I’ve been in that position that Hull are in because when I was at Portsmouth and we won it we played all but one team from outside the Premier League and the expectation was on us.”
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