‘Team spirit can bridge the £20m gap’

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ASKED what is the difference between his Sheffield United side and their namesakes from Manchester, John Pemberton replied: “About £20m.”

But the Blades academy director is confident that team spirit can help bridge the vast financial gulf separating them from their opponents tonight.

“The great thing about our boys at the moment is that you can’t get a thumbnail between them,” Pemberton said. “They all get along well and there are no big time Charlies. We don’t have stars. The stars come out of the group instead.”

United showed character aplenty to secure a 2-2 draw during last week’s meeting at Bramall Lane. Having twice fallen behind, goals from Callum McFadzean and Jordan Slew ensured they enter the second-leg on level terms with Paul McGuinness’ side.

“The boys showed a lot of bottle,” Pemberton said. “They dug-in when they had to and scored at really good times. That’s their real strength. Togetherness. Whether or not we could get that if we had lads earning ‘X’ amount of money I don’t know.

“What I do know is that our lot are prepared to fight for each other and fight hard.”

Despite embracing the more scientific aspects of the modern game - Pemberton has invited a personal development coach to hold classes at Shirecliffe - the former Manchester United youth team prospect retains a healthy respect for old school values: “That’s why I don’t want my lads wearing coloured boots,” he explained.

“I don’t want them to stand out because their dad is a millionaire and can afford to buy them the very best.

“I don’t want them to stand out because they’ve got a fancy haircut, big earring or lots of new tattoos. I want them to stand out for their football.”