Nigel Clough has urged Sheffield United to seize the moment when they face Swindon Town in the League One play-offs, writes James Shield.
And, speaking ahead of tonight’s semi-final first-leg at Bramall Lane, he urged the home crowd to try and help his team seize control of the tie ahead of Monday’s return against Mark Cooper’s side.
United have never won promotion via the end of the season knockouts but Clough said: “This is a fresh start and we have as good a chance as anyone. Records only count if you allow them to.
“We have told the players that the last 46 games don’t count for anything. So, previous seasons definitely don’t. This is a three-game mini-cup season now. Nothing else matters.
“History doesn’t mean anything. It is brilliant to be in the play-offs. Ideally, you want top two but that hasn’t been possible.
“It is still a good achievement and now we are in them, let’s make the most of it, irrespective of what has happened in the past.
“We went to the FA Cup semi-final last year and I was told we had never even scored at Wembley and never done this or that. But we got three goals and gave Hull City a massive fright. It is the same sort of approach this time.”
Clough, who led United into the last four of the Capital One Cup this term, added: “These are big occasions and our players have shown over the last couple of years that they can handle them.
“Very few of these are decided in the first leg. The real one will be Monday’s second leg but we have to put ourselves in a good position for that game.
“Mark will be saying the same to them. You rarely win a play-off semi-final in the first leg but you can lose them. Certainly, a victory as the away side in the first leg puts you in a very strong position. We want to go with a lead but if we can’t afford then we need to avoid defeat.”
Clough insisted United can use the experience they gained against the likes of City and Spurs to help them reach the divisional showpiece on May 24.
“The message is to be patient,” he said. “Games can change all the way through. It might come down to the last ten minutes at Swindon on Monday night before anything is decided.
“We need the crowd to be patient like against Spurs. We were 2-0 down and seemingly out of the tie. But we got one goal back and everything changed.
“Spurs looked a different side for ten minutes and were rocking. That is the affect the crowd can have. Our place lifts us.”
“It is an incentive to be the ones to break the hoodoo and the run,” Clough added. “I don’t like the phrase ‘history makers’ as that is over-egging it. We have been going 125 years as a club so there have been a lot of history makers. But if we can break this run that started in 1988 then let’s be that team.”