Oliver Norwood busts a big FA Cup myth as Sheffield United march into the fifth round
Some players might skirt around the issue, tying themselves in knots attempting to explain why, despite the risk of sounding thoroughly ridiculous, they really aren’t bothered about trying to win the FA Cup at all.
But Sheffield United have always preferred to go their own way, under Chris Wilder at least. So after scoring the second goal of his team’s fourth round victory over Millwall, Oliver Norwood made no secret about his hopes for this season’s competition.
The visitors are in it to win it, the midfielder admitted, so that’s what they will busting a gut to try and do.
“Why can’t it be our year?”, Norwood questioned. “Why can’t we do well in the league and the cup? There’s no reason, in my eyes, that I can see.
“We’re fit, hungry and all the boys want to be successful. We want to go higher and be pushing and see how far we can get.
“There’s a really good feel around this place at the moment and I think it’s a place where people want to be. You can see we’re all enjoying it and giving everything we have.”
There is a theory, promoted and pushed by some of the leading figures in the game, that even established Premier League teams, let alone ones that were competing in the Championship last season, can not chase success on more than one different front. It is not one to which Norwood, or his manager for that matter, subscribe.
By choosing to name a strong starting eleven for this contest at The Den, Wilder sent a message to his squad that progress was not only expected, it was being actively sought too.
Second-half efforts from Mo Besic and Norwood, after a hard-fought opening period, ensured they obliged.
There were a few scares along the way, as Aiden O’Brien missed an early chance for the hosts and Phil Jagielka and Kieron Freeman later made excellent interceptions. But thanks to a combination of attitude, application and their willingness to adapt on a challenging pitch - “It was a difficult wicket,” Wilder acknowledged afterwards - United were able to stamp their authority on the contest.
After Billy Sharp and Callum Robinson had gone close, Besic beat Millwall’s Bartosz Bialkowski with a superb long-range finish before Norwood, a regular member of the side which has climbed to eighth in the table, drilled a low shot past the Pole.
Sharp and substitute Leon Clarke both forced saves from Bialkowski during the closing stages, when United also introduced their new signing Jack Robinson.
“I wouldn’t say it was a head turning result, because being honest, we were expected to come here and win,” Norwood said. “You could see that in the team the gaffer picked.
“That showed what his mentality was and what our mentality was as well. We were all asking to play and we all wanted to play because we’re determined to do well in the cup.”