STEVE BRUCE believes next month’s FA Cup semi-final between Hull City and Sheffield United is further proof that Yorkshire football is enjoying a long-overdue revival.
The Tigers and Blades will meet in the first all-White Rose last-four tie in a generation at Wembley on the weekend of April 12-13.
Demand for tickets is expected to be high with the two clubs handed an initial allocation of around 31,000 for the county’s biggest match since Sheffield Wednesday beat Steel City rivals United to book a place in the 1993 FA Cup final.
Hull manager Bruce said: “Players, managers, coaches all come and go. But there is a common denominator at a football club and that is the supporters.
“For them, and particularly those who supported the club in the dark days, I am delighted. Save up, save your pennies – and let’s go and take Covent Garden by storm.”
For Yorkshire, such a high-profile occasion will represent a further step on the road to recovery following the nadir of recent years.
Not only did the Broad Acres not have a club in the top flight between 2009 and 2012, the longest absence since the days when rugby league was king in the early 20th Century.
But, until Bradford City battled through to last year’s League Cup final, Yorkshire had struggled in the Cups, too.
In 2010-11, for instance, all 11 White Rose Football League clubs had been knocked out of the League Cup by the end of August, while only Wednesday got beyond the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Bruce, who started his managerial career in South Yorkshire at Bramall Lane, said: “I watched the (semi-final) draw after our win over Sunderland. All this rubbish about, ‘It doesn’t matter who we draw’. Nonsense. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want the draw we got, even though I had a sneaky feeling that Wigan might do something ridiculous.
“I am sure Sheffield United were delighted to get us, too.
“It is also fantastic for Yorkshire. This is a big county, maybe the biggest in the country. But its football clubs have found it very, very difficult in recent years.
“So, for us to lead the way as the only representative in the Premier League is great. And to also now be in a semi-final.
“But to play another Yorkshire club with the winner going through to the final, well that is just fantastic for the county. It shows that football is doing okay again here. I started my career at Sheffield United so know what it is like as a club, even if those days do seem a long time ago now.
“They gave me my break and, for that, I will always be grateful.”
Hull’s appearance in the semi-finals is the first time Bruce has reached this stage of the competition as a manager.
The furthest he had previously gone was the last eight when in charge of a Birmingham City side thrashed 7-0 by Liverpool in 2006.
Relegation from the Premier League followed two months later to represent a huge low in a managerial career that he admits will peak if the Tigers can reach the Cup final on May 17.
Bruce said: “In terms of me as a manager, getting to the final would rival anything. That would be a massive achievement. To take a club like ours to the FA Cup final would be terrific. But we have to get to the final.
“I haven’t seen much of Sheffield United this season. But my staff went the other night to see them (beat Peterborough). So, we know about them.
“Getting to the semi-final is a wonderful achievement for them, just like it is us.
“They have beaten some good teams along the way, too, and we will have to be ready.
“I remember the first semi-final I played in at Manchester United. It was against Oldham (in 1990) and everyone expected us to win easily.
“But we struggled like hell at Maine Road (in drawing 3-3 before winning a replay). Everyone expected Crystal Palace to get turned over by that great Liverpool team in the other semi-final, too.
“But Palace went through and Oldham nearly did. That is why I say no semi-final is a gimme and no one will be taking anything for granted.”
Bruce was delighted with his players on Sunday but reserved special praise for captain Curtis Davies, who opened the scoring midway through the second half.
He added: “Curtis has had a wonderful six or seven months with us. He has proved a terrific acquisition for us.
“We always knew he could score us a goal but his all-round performances, week in and week out, have been fantastic.”