THE walls of the dining room at Sheffield United’s Shirecliffe training base are adorned with images of the club’s past FA Cup final appearances.
All six of the years that saw the Blades battle through to what was then the highlight of the English football calendar are depicted in photographs and cartoons, regardless of whether the final was won or lost.
The most recent is the 1936 defeat to Arsenal at Wembley but, had things worked out differently at Wembley nine months ago, there would be a gleaming new addition to this most imaginative and unusual of honours boards.
April 13, 2014, was a date that saw the national stadium taken over by Yorkshire football fans as Hull City edged an eight-goal thriller to deny United a seventh appearance in the final.
Ten crazy minutes immediately after half-time are what did for United, as a hard-earned and merited 2-1 lead gave way to a 3-2 deficit to shift the impetus very much the way of the Tigers.
Ask anyone of a Blades persuasion there that Sunday – from manager Nigel Clough through to any of his players or the 30,000 plus travelling army that descended on the capital – and the impact of those 10 minutes will be bemoaned with a wistful look.
For all the pride felt at reaching the last four as a League One side, this failure to build on what had been a dominant first-half display is something that is likely to haunt the Blades forever. Just ask Jamie Murphy.
“Wembley was a great experience and a day I won’t ever forget,” the 25-year-old Scot tells The Yorkshire Post.
“I scored and thought I played well. But, even now, all these months on, I feel disappointed when I think of that day.
“Up until half-time, I really thought we were going to get to the Cup final. It is something I will always remember.
“My family and friends were at the game and got the chance to see me play at one of the biggest stadiums in the world.
“But then, even after all that, I still can’t believe we got beat. I didn’t think we would be this close again so quickly.
“Obviously, getting to the semi-final of the League Cup is a great achievement, but we want to get to Wembley.
“We are definitely not going down there to make up the numbers. We want to try and win, and if not, just make sure we are still in the tie at home.”
Tonight’s semi-final first leg is a meeting between this season’s late, late specialists. Tottenham, for instance, have got scoring late off to such a knack that they have claimed 11 Premier League points through goals scored in the final two minutes of games.
United boast a similarly impressive record, Clough’s men having netted decisive late goals to either rescue a point or win a game on no less than seven occasions.
A repeat tonight would be very handy, indeed, especially with the return leg taking place a week tonight.
“This is the toughest tie yet,” says Murphy. “Tottenham have played in the Champions League but the challenge is one we look forward to.
“Tottenham are a great side and it will be difficult, but the key is bringing them back to Bramall Lane with the tie still alive.
“To come back to our stadium and our crowd having not conceded would be great. This place is like no other when the place is rocking. Every team that comes is a little bit wary of the atmosphere.”