'I want to make some FA Cup memories of my own' admits Sheffield United defender
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But tomorrow, when Bristol City visit Bramall Lane for what promises to be a keenly contested fifth round tie, the Sheffield United defender is hoping to address that by helping Chris Wilder’s side reach the quarter-finals for a second successive season.
“I don’t really have too many myself,” Bryan, who was beginning a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers this time last year, said when asked to select his favourite FA Cup moment. “I know Jesse personally, so I’d suppose I’d have to say it’s seeing him score against Crystal Palace for Manchester United and then lifting the trophy. I’ll go with that one.”
A former Manchester City player, Bryan’s choice came as a surprise to journalists on the video conference call designed to preview the meeting with Dean Holden’s side. But with a first round trip to Carlisle his only previous experience of the tournament until joining United three years ago, the defender does not exactly have a huge selection to choose from. His second appearance in it - when United were beaten by Barnet at the third round stage in 2019 - is not remembered with any great fondness either.
Bryan, who was making his debut for Wilder’s team that day, has been an ever-present in the manager’s squads for the competition so far this term; featuring as a substitute during the wins over Bristol Rovers and Plymouth Argyle which set-up the meeting with opponents who are 10th in the Championship,
“My past experiences in the Football League have definitely helped, I’ve been to places like Carlisle and I know how tough that can be,” Bryan said, remembering his trip to Brunton Park soon after joining Oldham Athletic on loan from City. “That helped going to Bristol Rovers away, because you know it’s going to be tough and that things aren’t going to be made easy for you. That’s something I’ve looked to take on board, all the way through my career. You’ve got to work, because everyone has good players.”
With United languishing at the bottom of the Premier League table and 12 points adrift of safety, the FA Cup represents their best chance of salvaging something from a season which has been wrecked by injuries to key players and the absence of supporters due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the fitness issues which have contributed to United’s problems of late were also responsible for presenting Bryan with a timely opportunity to remind coaching staff about his qualities. The three year contract he signed after leaving City expires at the end of the present campaign and, despite making only five top-flight appearances since September, Bryan has done enough to suggest an extension could be offered soon.
“To be honest, I’m not thinking about that, I’m just focusing on my football,” he said. “But would I like to stay? Of course, yes.”