Tommy Doyle’s classy message despite Sheffield United semi-final blow against Man City
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No-one – maybe even Doyle – will know when the realisation sunk in; that his stunning, long-range winner against Blackburn at Bramall Lane could actually have been his last meaningful touch in the FA Cup this season. After helping United reach their first Wembley semi-final in almost 10 years, Doyle and McAtee may now miss out on walking out under the arch after the Blades were paired with their parent club, Manchester City, in the final four.
What cruel, cruel irony for a pair who have done so much to aid United’s push for success on two fronts this season. FA rules forbid loan players from appearing against their parent club in the competition; boss Paul Heckingbottom is planning an appeal for clemency but even if City agree, it remains unclear if that would be enough.
It was already the tie that no-one at Bramall Lane really wanted. City put six past Championship leaders Burnley to reach the semi-final stage; striker Erling Haaland is by some distance the most formidable forward on the planet at the minute. It was already a daunting task, before factoring in the absence of two key men in Doyle and McAtee.
Both will no doubt be bitterly disappointed; devastated, even. But when facing the assembled media after his moment of magic, Doyle displayed his class and maturity when the prospect of missing out against his boyhood club was inevitably raised.
"If it happens, it happens," he said, speaking before the draw had been made. “As long as the lads are there. We’ve been in this together so I don't want to think about myself now. If it happens, I’ll still be there supporting the lads.”
On his goal, Doyle added: “I saw when Sander cut inside that they'd all dropped in. So I knew if he fired the ball into me, I'd trust myself to have a good first touch.
“And then, after that, it's just repetition of what I try to do every day on the training pitch. Don't think about it, just hit it.”