EIGHT games in just 28 days hardly sounds the ideal preparation for the biggest match of not only the season but also maybe some players’ careers.
That, though, has been the draining schedule for Sheffield United since booking their place in the first all-Yorkshire FA Cup semi-final in a generation.
It came to an end on Tuesday night with a hard-fought derby victory over Rotherham United as manager Nigel Clough, well aware that Sunday’s opponents Hull City have played just five times in the same period, rested several of his first-choice players.
Ben Davies, on loan from Derby County, netted the late winner against the Millers from the penalty spot. The 32-year-old has been busier than most, having played a part in all eight of those recent games – and he believes such a punishing schedule could have done United a favour.
“I honestly believe the number of times we have played lately has helped us,” he said. “Footballers always want to play rather than train. And when you have a big game like this one coming up, it can take your mind off it. The gaffer rested a few and that means they will come back in feeling really sharp.”
Davies will be hoping to keep his place as Clough rings the changes for Wembley. Not only does the midfielder have unfinished business with the national stadium after twice being in the losing camp with Shrewsbury but he believes the Blades have what it takes to topple Hull.
“Like a few of the lads,” he said, “I have been fortunate enough to play there before and it is special. But what that means is it is no longer new to us. We can concentrate on our jobs and nothing else. Mind, I can tell you it isn’t a great place to go and lose.
“It is a fantastic place but the novelty has now gone for us and we are going there to do a job. It can make a difference to not have played there before.”