STEVE BRUCE says Hull City should claim inspiration from their Premier League result at Arsenal in October after last season’s two FA Cup finalists were freakishly pitted together in last night’s third-round draw – after also being pitted against each other in the rehearsal.
The televised draw, which took place in front of a guest audience at The Deep aquarium in Hull – including Tigers chief Bruce – was handed an uncanny story with cup holders Arsenal and the 2013-14 runners-up drawn out as the first tie.
Fellow Yorkshire sides Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday were also handed trips to top-flight opposition, with the Whites visiting Sunderland in a repeat of the 1973 Wembley final.
The Owls will travel to Manchester City, with memories of their 7-0 Capital One Cup drubbing at the Etihad Stadium on September 24 when Manuel Pellegrini’s side scored seven second-half goals, likely to be at the forefront of their minds.
Wednesday’s Steel City rivals Sheffield United, who lost to Hull in an all-Yorkshire cup semi-final last April and who are also in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup next week, will also visit Premier League hosts in QPR.
But Hull’s trip to Arsenal represented the story of the round and immediately following the draw, Bruce admitted he thought that the Tigers, who drew 2-2 at the Emirates Stadium on October 18, had been drawn at home, only to be corrected.
It came following the rehearsal when Hull had been handed a home tie with the Gunners, only for the reverse to happen when it came to the real thing.
Bruce said: “I was convinced we were at home because when I walked in the building everybody said in rehearsals we had pulled Arsenal out of the bag.
“How is that for luck or whatever it is? It is quite ironic how it has happened.
“But listen, we had a great draw against them a few weeks ago. It is the FA Cup, let us go and enjoy it and see if we can progress.
“We could not have wished for a more difficult one, but there you are. If we are going to be honest about it, it was a really, really good distraction last year and it ended up for some players and myself particularly as being one of the great days of your professional life anyway.”
Arsenal famously came from 2-0 down to claim their first trophy in nine years in May, with Aaron Ramsey netting an extra-time winner to break Hull hearts.
The Tigers were also on the cusp of a stunning result at the Emirates in October, with goals from Mo Diame and Abel Fernandez seeing them lead 2-1 heading into stoppage-time, only for Daniel Welbeck to level.
But despite those late blows, Curtis Davies, who captained Hull at Wembley, says the Tigers can head to North London with optimism.
He said: “Our record against Arsenal is not too bad, but obviously Arsenal at the Emirates is always a difficult game.
“We have to go there and approach it like we did in the league earlier and, hopefully, put on a similar performance and come away with a win.”
Neil Redfearn’s Leeds head up the A1 to the Stadium of the Light for a reunion with former Whites assistant-manager Gus Poyet, the fourth time in six seasons that they have been handed a third-round draw at top-flight opponents following games at Arsenal (twice) and Manchester United.
“It is a great tie,” said Redfearn. “Playing a Premier League club is a good draw for us and it will give our young side, with a lot of talent, the chance to pit their wits against a top-flight side.
“It will be a good test for them and one they will relish.
“That 1973 final is still there in a lot of Leeds’ fans memories. I remember watching it and it was a famous final.
“It will be nice to go up there and put on a performance and get a win.”
Elsewhere, Rotherham United welcome Championship high-fliers Bournemouth, while Doncaster Rovers host Bristol City, with their tie being the last one drawn out.
Barnsley face a Yorkshire derby at home to Middlesbrough, if they beat Chester City in next week’s second round replay, while Huddersfield Town host Reading in an all-Championship tie.
Bradford City have been handed an underwhelming draw at Millwall, in just their second third round appearance in 11 years.
The Bantams have lost their last five games at the New Den, but manager Phil Parkinson, who took his side to the Capital One Cup final in 2013, is positive.
He said: “It is obviously disappointing with the draw, but one where the onus is on Millwall to go through. We will go there as underdogs and they have had a tough run of late and we will give it our best shot.”
The pick of the rest of the draw sees Liverpool travel to AFC Wimbledon, having lost the 1988 final to the original Dons side, while Manchester United will visit Accrington Stanley or Yeovil.
Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace head to Dover Athletic, while fellow non-leaguers Blyth Spartans welcome Birmingham City. Conference side Gateshead visit Premier League West Brom.
All ties will be played over the weekend of January 3-6.
FA Cup third round draw (ties to be played across the weekend beginning January 3):
Arsenal v Hull City
Southampton v Ipswich
Stoke v Wrexham
Charlton v Blackburn
Dover v Crystal Palace
AFC Wimbledon v Liverpool
Manchester City v Sheffield Wednesday
Aldershot/Rochdale v Nottingham Forest
West Brom v Gateshead
Blyth Spartans v Birmingham
Aston Villa v Blackpool
Rotherham United v Bournemouth
Huddersfield Town v Reading
Oxford/Tranmere v Swansea
Cardiff v Colchester
Bolton v Wigan
Sunderland v Leeds United
Burnley v Tottenham
Millwall v Bradford City
Derby County v Southport
Brentford v Brighton
Fulham v Wolves
Leicester v Newcastle
Scunthorpe/Worcester v Chesterfield
Everton v West Ham
Cambridge/Mansfield v Bury/Luton
Chelsea v Watford
Barnsley/Chester v Middlesbrough
QPR v Sheffield United
Accrington/Yeovil v Manchester United
Preston v Norwich
Doncaster Rovers v Bristol City