Sheffield United’s players urged not to focus on glamorous trip to Old Trafford

Andy Crosby.
Andy Crosby.
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ANDY CROSBY is urging Sheffield United to take inspiration from last season’s giant-killing FA Cup exploits of Yorkshire rivals Bradford City – after the Blades were paired with Premier League big guns Manchester United.

The Bramall Lane outfit travel to Old Trafford early in the new year for a glamour third-round date which is likely to rake in a seven-figure financial windfall for the club – with the tie having quickly captured the imagination of supporters.

Thousands of Unitedites will head over the Pennines in a mass exodus on the second weekend of January.

But assistant-manager Crosby says that adopting a ‘sight-seeing’ mindset must not come into the equation for Blades players, several of whom were involved in the epic runs to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 2013-14 and Capital One Cup last season.

And he has cited last January’s example of Bradford, who defied seemingly insurmountable odds to turn around a 2-0 deficit to sink Chelsea 4-2 in a fourth-round stunner at Stamford Bridge in arguably the biggest cup shock of all time, as proof that no tie is a forgone conclusion.

While the Red Devils’ FA Cup history is venerable, with their tally of 11 wins bettered only by Arsenal, the club have been on the receiving end of several huge shocks during their history.

That was showcased almost six years ago when Leeds United beat them 1-0 at Old Trafford in January 2010, while another side then in the third-tier in Bournemouth were triumphant 2-0 in another famous round-three upset in 1984.

Crosby, part of the Scunthorpe side who gave hosts Chelsea and Manchester City, a run for their money in third-round ties in 2005 and 2006 – with Iron taking the lead on both occasions before bowing out 3-1 – said: “You don’t let the fear factor or prospect of a hiding inhibit you at all.

“Ask the Bradford players, they beat Chelsea. It happens, at any level of sport and in any discipline, it happens. Yes, it might be rare, but results like that do occur.

“Something might happen in the first minute of the game that changes everybody’s mentality.

“We will be going there to win. We’ll be going there to perform and hopefully, on the back of that, go through.”

Specifically on the draw, he added: “I was sitting down for the draw and thinking how good it would be to get Manchester United or Manchester City who hadn’t come out of the hat, I don’t think.

“Then, when the draw did come out, my kids were jumping all over the room!”

With the Blades having so far flattered to deceive in a low-key League One campaign which sees them lie in 12th place after 20 games – 14 points behind current leaders Burton Albion – the marquee Old Trafford trip has provided a real shot in the arm to everyone connected with the club.

But in regards to talk of the tie providing a catalyst to the Blades campaign, Crosby is circumspect.

He added: “It’s as game to look forward to, but not a game to concentrate on at this moment in time.

“If we take 12 points from the matches in between, I think everybody would say that’s huge.

“First things first, the lads have got to show they want to play and play well against Coventry City. If you do that then you will stay in the team.

“People might say the draw acts as an incentive to perform. Should you need that though? Probably not.

“Doing the basics against Oldham, the nitty gritty in difficult conditions and with 10 men, well that has led to Manchester United, arguably the biggest team in the world, in the FA Cup. It shows what can happen if you do the unglamorous aspects of the game well.”

The Blades have confirmed that they will not appeal against the red card picked up by Che Adams in Saturday’s second-round win over Oldham.

The 19-year-old will now miss games against Coventry, Scunthorpe and Wigan Athletic and will be available once again for the Yorkshire derby at home to Bradford on December 28.

Bob Harris is back in training after being taken off with a head injury in Saturday’s win over Oldham, with the defender stretchered off and taken to hospital.

Checks have revealed that the Scot is okay and he will be monitored over the coming days – with the seven-day protocol over concussion potentially allowing him to feature against Coventry on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a club boardroom reshuffle at Bramall Lane has seen local businessmen and lifelong Blades fans David and Martin Green handed key positions.

David has been named as vice-chairman with responsibility for footballing operations – and will chair the technical board assigned with player recruitment.

His namesake Martin – owner of Chesterfield-based firm Redtooth – has been promoted from vice-president to vice-chairman for commercial and administration matters, taking charge of non-football affairs. Managing director Mal Brannigan has left the club with immediate effort.

The Blades were last night in mourning for club legend Alan Hodgkinson MBE, 79, who has passed away after illness.

The former England international goalkeeper – “one of our greatest ever players” – played 674 games for United and was an automatic choice in the Fifties and Sixties.