Promotion taking priority over Cup shock for the Eagles

Sheffield's Jamie Langley. Picture: Marie Caley
Sheffield's Jamie Langley. Picture: Marie Caley
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Former Grand Final winners Jamie Langley and Lee Radford have different targets as they lock horns tomorrow. Dave Craven reports.

FOR all of the Challenge Cup’s romance, underdogs Sheffield Eagles readily admit success over Super League’s Hull FC is not as high on their agenda as perhaps it would have been previously.

The South Yorkshire club who, of course, produced the biggest Challenge Cup shock in history when they defeated Wigan in the 1998 final, host the Black and Whites at Bramall Lane in the fifth round tomorrow.

As a side riding high in the Championship, they will fancy their chances of causing an upset against top-flight opponents who have found the going tough so far.

However, with promotion to Super League available once more this season after the disbanding of the licence process, Sheffield are intent on returning to the elite themselves.

Jamie Langley, their former Bradford Bulls and England loose-forward, admitted: “It’s a big month in terms of the league.

“We’ve got Fev, Leigh, Halifax and Bradford which are all big games and this Challenge Cup match is dotted between.

“Looking at it long-term, getting in the top four and that middle eight (play-offs with Super League’s bottom four) is one of our goals but, financially, it’s also a big boost, too.

“That is one of our priorities and an attainable target but, realistically, we’re not going to make a Challenge Cup final.

“That said, we’re looking forward to it and we’ll be giving Hull a real crack.”

As part of that sequence of fixtures, Sheffield defeated Featherstone Rovers before seeing an eight-match winning run ended by champions Leigh last Sunday.

Now in third spot, Mark Aston’s side host fourth-placed Halifax a week tomorrow knowing victory will send them six points clear of their rivals.

Langley, though, is hoping to get the chance to take on Hull first, especially given their coach is his former Odsal colleague Lee Radford.

They won a Grand Final together with Bradford in 2005 and Langley admitted: “Radders has been a mate of mine for a long while.

“He looked after me when I was a young lad (at Bradford) and really got behind me.

“There was me, Rads, Baloo (Huddersfield Giants coach Paul Anderson) and Gaz Stanley, who used to drive over to Bradford and Rads would come in from Hull to meet us at Cas’. It’s a high pressure job there coaching Hull FC so it’s good to see they’ve picked up a couple of wins for him lately as it takes the pressure off a bit.

“You want Radders to do well; he’s one of those you always root for.”

Though Langley won that Grand Final against Leeds Rhinos and a brace of World Club Challenges in 2004 and 2006 with Bradford, he never lifted the Challenge Cup.

Langley, 31, who joined Sheffield after a season at Hull KR last year, said: “It is one trophy that’s eluded me over the years.

“I was there at Cardiff in 2003 when we beat Leeds and remember that well as it was a great win but I was just a kid on the fringes then.”

Radford, however, was in that Bradford side and he is desperate to take his Hull side to similar glory.

The former prop was in the Hull side that lost the 2008 final to St Helens and was Peter Gentle’s assistant when they succumbed to Wigan two years ago.

Hull are sat in 10th spot but Radford believes the famous knockout competition could act as a catalyst for his side.

“Castleford showed last year with the run they went on in the cup that it has a feelgood factor and a knock-on effect in the league,” he said, the West Yorkshire club finishing just two points adrift of leaders St Helens after reaching Wembley where they lost to Leeds.

“It would be great if we could replicate that.

“The cup is huge. We only have one shot at it and we have to get a result Sunday and make sure we are in the draw. Our focus is nothing but Sunday right now.”