NIGEL CLOUGH has no idea why Fulham have to play in the Premier League just a couple of days after taking on Sheffield United.
His own Blades side have an extra day’s rest before they are next in action at home to Peterborough United. It could, Clough hopes, make all the difference to his League One players after an energy-sapping 90 minutes of Cup football.
Whatever the reason behind Fulham travelling to Swansea City on Tuesday and not Wednesday, Clough believes it will have an impact on the team Rene Meulensteen sends out ahead of tomorrow’s 1pm kick-off.
The United manager said: “We’re looking forward to the tie. It is the reward for three very difficult ties that we have had.
“In all the three rounds, we were away from home, so it is nice to be at Bramall Lane. The Cup has been good for us. It has allowed us to put smiles on faces.
“Fulham have another game 48 hours later at Swansea, so we don’t quite know how that will affect selection. We don’t play until the Wednesday, so we have an extra day.”
United have reached the fourth round in each of the last three seasons and they are desperate to avoid once again bowing out at this stage to Premier League opposition.
If they can make it past Fulham, it would represent another significant step forward for the club. For Clough, it would also speed up a process that, after the third round win over Villa, he likened to turning round an oil tanker.
He said: “It could speed up the process, yes. We are still conscious that the league is our priority.
“I don’t want to sound like a Premier League manager too much but it is. But the FA Cup run and the confidence it brings can only help in that department.
“Financially, it always helps but it’s about more than that. Whatever we made a Villa Park and from this game, the glory of the day and winning is the main thing.
“The glory and the memories of the day, that’s what was important at Villa Park.”
The “glory” is, indeed, what will fuel a passionate Bramall Lane crowd tomorrow in live of the BT Sport cameras. The proceeds from a Cup run would, though, prove more than useful to Clough’s attempts to turn the club around.
“We have a budget,” he said. “It is a club that is struggling to be viable in League One.
“This is a Championship club, at least. And one pushing for the top end of the Championship. That is where it would come into its own. It is difficult when big clubs are in League One.”
Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen insists he is not treating the FA Cup with contempt by resting some of his players.
With just 51 hours separating two games, Meulensteen has no option but to save his top players for Swansea.
“That game is more important because it is so tight in the Premier League,” said Meulensteen.
“There is not one country in the world that would let someone play in a fourth round of the cup on a Sunday and then play an important league game on Tuesday.
“Everyone with a bit of common sense understands that. I have to utilise the squad to the best of my ability, to make sure it doesn’t affect either competition.”