GEORGE BOYD had more reason than most to lament Hull City’s no-show in the first half of last month’s FA Cup semi-final.
Not only did the 29-year-old struggle on the biggest stage of his career but he was also substituted at the interval as Steve Bruce set about trying to rectify the situation.
The switch of formation and personnel – Maynor Figueroa was also replaced as Bruce turned to Matty Fryatt and Sone Aluko – worked as the Tigers went on to overturn a 2-1 deficit to book a first appearance in the FA Cup final.
Boyd was as delighted as anyone at the final whistle but it is surely only natural for the midfielder to want to make up for what proved to be a missed opportunity for himself when City take on Arsenal.
“We just never got going and didn’t play in those opening 45 minutes,” lamented the former Peterborough United man when asked about the April 13 all-Yorkshire semi-final.
“It was disappointing to have to come off but things had been hard with just one man up front. We had to switch to two up top because Sheffield United had so much time on the ball that they were able to play out from the back.
“It worked and we are in the final so that is all that matters.
“As we came off, all of us knew it just hadn’t happened for us. Curtis (Davies, captain) did his team-talk that everyone now knows about and then it was with a couple of minutes left in the half-time break that the gaffer told us the changes he wanted to make.
“He had a chat with everyone and made those changes, which were for the good of the team.
“I didn’t get changed or hang about in the dressing room. I just put on my tracksuit top and followed everyone else out to watch the game from the bench. I wanted to support the boys, as the team has to come first.
“We needed those two quick goals. The two lads up front were able to press them higher up the pitch and that meant Sheffield United were unable to play as much in our half.
“Sone (Aluko) was brilliant, Quinny (Stephen Quinn) got a great goal and Matty (Fryatt), well he has been superb all season and deserved his chance.”
Fryatt is the only definite starter for the Tigers today, the striker having been told immediately after last month’s semi-final by Steve Bruce that he would be in the team.
As for the rest, trying to second guess the City manager is not easy. And particularly in terms of what formation the Tigers will employ, with Bruce having alternated between a 4-4-2 and 3-5-2 set-up this term.
The latter would be a more likely bet, which for Boyd could be bad news with Bruce having this season preferred Ahmed Elmohamady as one wing back and a combination of Robbie Brady and Liam Rosenior as the other.
“It is going to be difficult for some of us,” admitted Boyd, when asked about his chances of starting today’s final.
“We all want to play and the manager has tough decisions to make.
“The thing is we can’t all start. Just to play a part, though, would be fantastic.
“I honestly am not too sure about my chances. I haven’t played a lot lately, not with the gaffer having to get gametime into a few of the other lads. Lads such as Paul McShane, Sone (Aluko) and Greggsy (Allan McGregor). The squad is going to be at full strength for the Arsenal match.”
Boyd has started four of City’s last seven games, a run that began with perhaps his best performance of the season as Swansea City were beaten 1-0 at the KC on April 5.
It was the result that, ultimately, preserved Hull’s top-flight status.
A week later, the Blades were beaten at Wembley but since then the club’s form has collapsed with just one point being taken from the last five league games.
The Cup final has, undoubtedly, been preying on a few minds and Boyd admits it has been a relief this week to have just the Arsenal clash to focus on.
“This week has been good in that we got most things sorted early in the week, like tickets and so on. Plus, the suits. That meant we have been able to concentrate solely on the football.
“Until last Sunday, there was also the Premier League to think of so that took a bit of the focus away. I know our results weren’t too good, but it was still something to focus on.
“You can’t think about the final during the season but now we have been able to. And that has been great.
“We have been working on a few things in training this week. But I also believe we can take stuff from the game against Arsenal at home last month. We matched them for long periods.
“Their (first) two goals were counter-attacks so that is something we must be aware of. They have good players all over the pitch but we have a gameplan to try and stop it.
“We have been at our best playing at a high tempo and getting at teams. But this is a one-off game so we will go in and make it hard for Arsenal. I am confident we can win it.
“We watched the Wigan semi-final at our team hotel and I felt their plan worked brilliantly. Wigan were unlucky not to go through. We can take encouragement from that and it is up to us to make life difficult for Arsenal.
“The longer the semi-final went on, you could see the pressure that was building for Arsenal. Another five minutes and (Arsene) Wenger could have been out of a job and Arsenal out of all competitions.
“That is the fine margins that exist in football and we have to hope we can put all the pressure on Arsenal, who we all know have not won a trophy for some time.”