Derek Geary has told Nigel Clough’s players to do themselves proud as they bid to emulate Sheffield United’s class of 2005, writes James Shield.
Geary was a member of the squad which ended Aston Villa’s FA Cup hopes following a dramatic third round victory at Bramall Lane nine years ago.
And, despite their perilous predicament towards the foot of the League One table, the former defender is confident United can once again upset the odds when they lock horns with Paul Lambert’s side in the Midlands today.
“Showing the right character, both individually and collectively, is absolutely key,” Geary told The Star last night. “We all raised our games in that match against Villa because we felt as if we had something to prove and that’s what the lads have got to do again.
“We knew we had absolutely nothing to lose back then because everyone expected us to get beaten. But in football anything is possible providing your attitude is right and you’ve only got to look back at what Bradford City did in the League Cup last season to understand that.
“Villa aren’t going great at the moment and, if they show any signs of fragility, then the lads have got to jump straight on it. First and foremost, when you are playing a top-flight team, you’ve got to make sure you work harder than the opposition right across the pitch.
“If you do that then who knows what could happen.”
Villa, beaten by City in last season’s Capital One Cup semi-finals, are 11th in the Premiership following their narrow victory over Sunderland earlier this week. Nigel Clough, who took charge of United in October, yesterday acknowledged a battling performance at Villa Park could benefit results in the league where, despite being beaten just once in eight outings, his team still find themselves just a point above the relegation zone.
“It frustrates me to see the club where they are now,” Geary, who helped United achieve promotion from the Championship in 2006, said. “I just hope all of the lads there realise that they’ll never play for a bigger or a better club than Sheffield United.
“It’s a club that you should be so chuffed to have on your CV. Look at the support. Who wouldn’t want to play in front of that?
“Seriously, I mean that which is why I want to see them go out there and do it proud.
“If they can get out of the division they are in at the moment then that place will be buzzing. That’s what they should remember and use it to drive them on. I know a few of the lads there and they’re good characters.
“All football fans in Sheffield want to see is people who are ready to sweat blood for their team. They’ll forgive mistakes if they see that. I played for both teams in the city and they’re good, honest people.
“That’s the type of attitude they want, hard work and application, not big headphones, flash cars and all that stuff.
“If you get success, then the money and all of other trappings come naturally. That takes care of itself.”
“Hopefully Mr Clough gets things back on track at United,” Geary said. “He seems a no-nonsense type of character and I think that’s good.
“Looking back on my time at United, it’s only now that I appreciate just how good Neil (Warnock) was. He was exactly the same as that because attitude and character were also the most important qualities for him.
“He got us so revved-up for the game against Villa. He made us feel as if we should all be Premier League footballers before telling us to go out there and prove it.
“We had some top players in that team and we played some really good stuff. But the focus and drive in that dressing room beforehand was something else.”
Geary, who also represented Sheffield Wednesday before retiring due to injury in 2010, admitted he was not surprised when goals from Danny Cullip and Andy Liddle (2) put Villa to the sword despite Gareth Barry’s opener.
“We battered them football wise in the first half and then fell behind right at the start of the second,” Geary said. “But even before a ball had even been kicked I had a feeling we’d come through.
“There was one incident that sticks in my mind. It was a freezing cold day and as we were going out for the warm-up, you could see some of the Villa boys wearing gloves and waiting in the tunnel to get a few more moments worth of warmth before going out there.
“It sounds daft but I knew there and then that we’d win.”