NIGEL CLOUGH says that his Sheffield United squad players have given him food for thought ahead of Sunday’s eagerly-anticipated FA Cup quarter-final at home to Charlton Athletic.
The Blades chief made six changes for Tuesday’s League One clash with Peterborough and was massively vindicated in the shape of a polished 2-0 success at Bramall Lane as the club eased to their eighth successive victory.
The Blades managed without the injured trio of Harry McGuire, John Brayford and Jamie Murphy, with Stefan Scougall, Chris Porter and Ryan Flynn among those handed breathers on the bench, as the likes of Ben Davies, Shaun Miller and Terry Kennedy stepped up to the plate impressively.
Utility man Davies’s accomplished display was crowned by a fine 47th-minute free-kick opener for the Blades, with Kennedy, in his first home start and maiden appearance of the campaign, also having a night to remember partnering Neill Collins in the heart of defence.
Looking ahead to a few selection dilemmas ahead of Sunday’s tie, set to attract a sell-out 32,000 attendance, Clough said: “We don’t rule anybody out. We have just got to pick a side to try and get a result against Charlton; no different to Tuesday.
“With the changes we made with injuries – with one or two needing a rest as well – for the squad players to come in and do the job they did was absolutely brilliant for everybody.”
He added: “Ben’s goal was absolutely superb. The lads on the bench were a little bit surprised, but we were a little bit less so as we’d watched him do it for a few seasons at Derby and take the bag of balls out at training when everyone has gone home and practice.
“That is why he is so good at them; but it was an incredibly good free-kick.
“People will talk about his goal and rightly so. But remember, he has played the best part of two games for us at right-back and looked very comfortable and done his job. Ben is one of those you can rely on.”
And on Kennedy, he said: “He showed a lot of character. When you have not played too many matches and come in for your first start and play as he did; whole-hearted doesn’t do him justice.”
Clough has played down fears that Maguire might be struggling for this weekend’s cup-tie with a knee injury after missing the last two games and says John Brayford and Jamie Murphy will be given as much time as possible to prove their fitness.
The Blades will mark their 125th anniversary with a day of celebration when they host Wolverhampton on March 22 – the exact day the club was formed.
The Bramall Lane game will kick-off at 1.25pm, feature over 50 former players dating back to the 40s, Dinnington Colliery brass band, a special fan zone with big screen and stage, plus the launch of a new Blades vintage shirt copying United’s original jersey from the 1890s of thin red stripes on a white background.
Some of the current crop of Blades players took time out to model the new retro kit.
“It was a lot of fun – we really enjoyed not only modelling the kit but also looking the part,” said defender John Brayford. “I had no problem with the beard and ‘tache – although I’m not sure how some of the others suddenly acquired the same look!”
Blades managing director Mal Brannigan added: “From mid-morning the pre-match against Wolves will be something special. We are determined to provide a unique celebration to mark this date on behalf of the Club and our fans.
“This is recognition of Sheffield’s Red and White. We are not only proud to be celebrating our heritage but at the same time we are looking forward to the next chapters in our story which has become such an important part in the lives of so many people in this community.”
The club was formed after the 1889 FA Cup semi-final at Bramall Lane, between Preston and West Brom.