AWARE of the tantalising prospect of what would be only a fourth all-Yorkshire FA Cup semi-final, Steve Bruce last night insisted that Hull City taking on Sheffield United next month at Wembley would be the ideal scenario for both clubs.
The duo are in Cup action tomorrow, the Blades hosting Charlton Athletic at noon with the Tigers then taking on Sunderland at the KC Stadium almost immediately after the game at Bramall Lane finishes.
A place in the last four and a trip to Wembley on the weekend of April 12-13 is at stake for the Yorkshire pair.
For Hull, victory over the Black Cats would mean only their second appearance in the semi-finals and their manager Bruce admits the opportunity to make history is a big incentive.
The Tigers’ chief said: “This is a chance for the players to create a little bit of history. This club has only been in one semi-final before and that was in 1930.
“I can’t imagine there are too many still alive who remember that. I will be stressing that to the players.
“A semi-final would be great for the city, too. It would be a wonderful occasion. I know the club got to the (Championship) play-off final (in 2008) but I don’t think it’s quite like an FA Cup semi-final or a final at Wembley.
“Lifting a big trophy there would be fantastic and when we are one of the eight left we have got a chance.”
There have been just three previous all-Yorkshire semi-finals since the Cup began in 1871.
The most recent came 21 years ago when Sheffield Wednesday beat Steel City rivals United under the old Twin Towers.
That was the first time two White Rose clubs had gone head-to-head in the last four of the world’s oldest knockout competition since Huddersfield Town got the better of the Owls in 1930, coincidentally the only previous time Hull have appeared at the same stage.
Two years earlier, the Terriers also edged out Sheffield opposition to book a trip to Wembley as the Blades lost 1-0 after a second replay.
Bruce added: “If you could get to a semi-final, you want to avoid the big ones. I am sure Sheffield United or Charlton would be looking at us and Sunderland and thinking they would want us.
“The one you all want to avoid is the big ones. I am sure there will be one there.”
In contrast to Hull, who sit 12th in the Premier League, the run to the quarter-finals enjoyed by the Blades has been the story of this season’s competition.
Aston Villa and Fulham have both been knocked out on their own patch by a revitalised United, who also accounted for promotion-chasing Nottingham Forest in the last round.
That win over Billy Davies’s men opened up the possibility of a Steel City derby this weekend only for Charlton to end those hopes with a stunning win at Hillsborough.
Asked if he wished tomorrow’s visitors to the Lane could be Wednesday, United manager Nigel Clough replied: “A little bit, but only a small bit. I think it (being Charlton) means we can concentrate on the football and not the derby aspect of it or the pride that would be at stake.
“It is about the FA Cup quarter-final, not a Sheffield derby. We are possibly one game from Wembley.
“That is what should be on every player’s mind. Not to make them nervous or negative, but to make them think, ‘We are 90 minutes away from Wembley here’. Most players will never have that opportunity again.”
As for whether United could make history as the first team from the third tier to win the Cup, Clough replied: “I am not sure about winning it, when you look at who is left.
“But in a semi-final anything can happen. For now, though, we have to get past Charlton first.”
Bruce, meanwhile, is not ruling out the possibility of his own side lifting the famous old trophy on May 17 and cites last season’s final – when Wigan stunned Manchester City – as justification for such thinking.
The Hull chief, three times a winner of the Cup as a player, said: “I am obviously a bit biased towards Wigan (as a former manager), but to see them do it last year was just absolutely fantastic. It showed that a small club can go and win the FA Cup.
“That was a terrific afternoon for everyone involved in football.
“That was the magic of the FA Cup and that is why it’s been such a fantastic tournament over the years.
“Personally, I have got nowhere near winning it before (as a manager).
“I’ve only been in the quarters once (with Birmingham).
“Probably because I had such a decent run at it as a player I’ve thought, ‘Don’t be greedy, it’s not going to happen in management’.
“But a place in the semi-finals would be terrific. It would be up there with anything else I’ve done.
“Then, when you get to a semi-final, the one thing you have to do is make sure you win that otherwise it is a dark place when you lose.
“I would love to know how many of my players have been to a semi-final. Allan McGregor has obviously done a lot up in Scotland, but an FA Cup semi-final doesn’t come along very often.
“We have seen great players go through their careers over the years without winning anything. Tom Finney didn’t win anything, for example.
“That is the point I will make to the players, that these opportunities are rare.”
FA Cup previews and analysis for Sheffield United and Hull City: Pages 2-3.