AS the countdown began last night to the first all-Yorkshire FA Cup semi-final in a generation, the managers of Sheffield United and Hull City had a clear message for their respective sides: “We’re not going to Wembley for a day out.”
A glorious afternoon for White Rose football saw the Blades stun Charlton Athletic 2-0 and then the Tigers make light work of Sunderland.
The semi-final draw a few minutes after the final whistle had blown at the KC Stadium then paired the two Yorkshire clubs together for a tie that will take place at Wembley over the weekend of April 12-13.
The clubs expect to learn today whether they will play on Saturday lunchtime or Sunday afternoon.
In the other tie, Arsenal will take on Wigan who stunned Manchester City with a 2-1 victory.
The clash between Hull and the Blades is likely to attract a capacity crowd with tens of thousands of fans heading to the capital for the county’s biggest game since Sheffield Wednesday beat their Steel City rivals in the 1993 semi-final.
United manager Nigel Clough said: “If you look at the teams left in the competition, it is a little bit scary. It is about the financial boost and everyone enjoying Wembley, but we aren’t going there just for a day out.
“You go to the seaside for a day out, not to Wembley.
“For a League One side to get to an FA Cup semi-final is an incredible achievement. Not with easy draws along the way either, with having to play Fulham and winning at Villa Park.”
Hull’s Steve Bruce, fresh from reaching the last four of the Cup for the first time as a manager, is also eagerly looking forward to next month’s Wembley date.
However, like Clough, the former Blades manager is also adamant that the achievement for Hull will come in reaching the final.
Bruce said: “We have to get to the final now and make it a wonderful end to the season. How great would that be? To see us play in an FA Cup final.
“We will enjoy the 24 hours that follow this win over Sunderland. We will have a glass of beer, but then we dust ourselves down and go again. Hull City has to get to the final and then the achievement will be terrific.”
Curtis Davies, Matty Fryatt and David Meyler scored the goals for Hull with the latter celebrating his strike by headbutting the corner flag, a clear reference to the previous weekend’s controversial events that saw Newcastle manager Alan Pardew do the same to the midfielder.
Asked about his player’s celebration, Bruce added: “It was great, though someone must have told him to do that. No way he came up with that himself.”
The pairing of Yorkshire’s two remaining representatives in the Cup means a possible route to Europe has opened up for both clubs.
With Arsenal likely to qualify for the Champions League next season and Arsene Wenger’s men being strong favourites to beat Wigan in the semi-final, whoever emerges victorious out of Hull and the Blades would go straight into the Europa League.
Bruce said: “For us to be even thinking about playing in Europe, that is terrific for everyone concerned. But we have got to beat Sheffield United first, which is never going to be easy.”
Yesterday’s 3-0 win over Sunderland means the club face a pivotal week both on and off the field next month with the FA to decide on April 9 on the proposed name change to Hull Tigers.
As for United, the goals from Ryan Flynn and John Brayford which accounted for Charlton were enough to stretch their run of consecutive wins to nine.
It represents a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for a club who as recently as February 8 were sitting in the League One relegation zone.
Clough said: “We feel satisfied that we have gone from second from bottom to the top half of the league and a Cup semi-final in a short space of time. But there’s still a lot to do.
“We have achieved something getting to the semi-final, but we want to ensure our status, get in the top half and then get back into the Championship. That is the aim.”
FA Cup reports: Pages 2-3.