Kevin Gage's Sheffield United Column: Why can't this current Blades team win the FA Cup? After 40 years in the game I'm long overdue some Wembley glory!
After nearly 40 years of involvement in football as firstly a professional player, now a full-time fan, part-time columnist and sometime pundit/commentator I think, for purely selfish reasons, I am long overdue some FA Cup glory!
I'll explain as best I can…
The 'romance' of the FA Cup. The 'magic' of the trophy. We've heard it all before, of course, and those of us of a certain age will remember a time when it was as prestigious as winning the league itself.
Those times are long gone, courtesy of the TV money thrown at the Premier and Champions League, but 'back-in-the-day' it was every young boy’s dream to play in or see their team win the FA Cup.
I was no different and even though I didn't really have a 'team' (long story) I watched every single FA Cup final on TV from nine in the morning through to the match end. When I left school and entered the professional game in 1980 it was to join Wimbledon FC, who had only got invited into the Football League due to their FA Cup exploits versus Leeds a few years before.
Fast forward seven years and my first appearance on a rare (in those days) 'live' TV match was a fifth round cup tie against Everton and although we won 3-1, I missed my first EVER penalty in six years as a professional player when Neville Southall saved it! In the next round, a certain Chris Waddle scored as Spurs knocked us out. He was to ruin my FA Cup dreams again in the future…
The following year saw one of the greatest FA Cup final upsets in history as Wimbledon's 'Crazy Gang' beat Liverpool's 'Culture Club' as memorably described by the BBC’s John Motson. In theory I should have been playing, but seeing as I'd left the season before to join Aston Villa, I had to settle for watching the game from a bar in Magaluf with my Villa team mates, along with about 200 other holidaymakers all cheering the underdogs on!
After no real cup runs at Villa, my next near miss was after joining the Blades and the infamous Sheffield semi-final of 1993 at Wembley. As we can never forget (no matter how hard we try!) Waddle struck again and despite Alan Kelly's heroics, it wasn't to be. A case of 'what might have been', especially if the game had been played at Elland Road as previously planned.
In retirement, I've since become a fan of course and believe me the pain of losing an important FA Cup tie is just as great! Whether it's been at Old Trafford or returning to Wembley, on every occasion we've come back disappointed in the result, even though our team has done us proud on the pitch. Especially on the last occasion in 2014 – after Stefan Scougall got that goal against Hull, I genuinely thought it was to be our year!
So yes, I'm overdue some success and some glory please! And this year, with this current Blades team, am I wrong to finally be thinking that MAYBE, just maybe, we could go all the way and win the thing?
We're clearly good enough, as our performances have shown the whole football world this season. We are also taking the competition seriously as proved by the strong team put out against Millwall and the players’ response with a superbly professional display.
As I write this, the Manchester teams have cruised through and the other big boys in the top six are all still in the hat. We've shown we can compete with the very best and in a one-off game, I'd fancy us to pull off a minor upset. But another good result and it’s quarter-final time, we all get very excited indeed and it's 'what might be' time as we check the dates for a Wembley semi.…
I'm getting carried away a bit I know, but having watched this current Blades team develop into such an outstanding side, it's allowed us to do so. And although we're not absolutely 100 per cent safe yet, we're actually eyeing up a place in the Europa League, for God’s sake! So in the FA Cup, then, we CAN go all the way. Why the hell not? And after the three and a half seasons we've just witnessed, I simply wouldn't rule anything out! It's OK to dream guys, so let's do so.
And for me, personally, this time Chris Waddle's not going to wreck it!
Kevin Gage owns the Manor House bar/hotel/cafe, High St, Dronfield. Follow him on Twitter: @gageykev