SHEFFIELD United have turned down an invitation from the Football League to check out Wembley ahead of the League One play-off final with Huddersfield Town.
The Blades are seeking a change in luck this Saturday after touring the venue, as per tradition, before three previous play-off finals and losing each time.
Manager Danny Wilson revealed that his players have declined the opportunity this season – opponents Town, however, will visit the stadium tomorrow afternoon.
“We are leaving everything to the players and they don’t want to look,” he said. “That tells me they are very determined.”
The Blades, who finished nine points clear of Huddersfield in the League One table, suffered a 1-0 defeat to Burnley on their only other trip to the new Wembley in the 2009 Championship play-off final.
Under Neil Warnock in 2003, they lost 3-0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium while in 1997, with Howard Kendall in charge, they lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace at the old Wembley.
“We have not touched on the disappointments of the past,” stressed Wilson. “It is pointless going down that way. We can’t worry about other people’s emotions and what their superstitions will be from past games but we are going into this game in a level-headed mode. We are focused on what is ahead.”
Blades midfielder Nick Montgomery insists that the decision had nothing to do with ‘superstition’.
Montgomery, 30, is the sole player from 2003 in the current Blades squad while only Stephen Quinn and the injured Chris Morgan played against Burnley three years ago.
“It was a collective decision,” said Montgomery. “We will have plenty of time to look around the stadium on Saturday.
“Quite a few of us have seen it before and we just want to concentrate on the game.”
Defender Neill Collins thinks it is unnecessary to visit Wembley 24 hours before the event.
“We didn’t go to Hartlepool’s ground before that game so why go to Wembley?” he quipped. “We don’t normally do it, so we won’t bother this weekend. We will go down like we normally do, on the bus, and turn up at the ground to play the game.”
Captain Michael Doyle has never been involved in a play-off final or played at Wembley but is supportive of the team’s decision.
“I just think everybody to their own,” he said. “Personally, it’s going to be great to play there but I don’t want to get too caught up in all the hype and the ‘day out’.
“Everybody’s different. Some might want to go down and look at the stadium but some won’t. Personally, I will leave it until Saturday.”
The Blades are still sweating over the fitness of midfielder Kevin McDonald and striker Richard Cresswell, who have not trained since the semi-final second-leg victory against Stevenage nine days ago.
McDonald was substituted midway through the game after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring injury while Cresswell has been struggling to shake off an eye infection.
They will be given until the day of the game to recover because both have played important roles for the team this season.
Wilson said: “I am hoping they will both be okay but we just don’t know. We are preparing without them and we are also preparing with them. We will just have to wait and see.”
McDonald was sidelined for a month and missed seven games when his hamstring last flared up in February while Cresswell’s eye problem is the latest in a string of setbacks for the striker this season.
On McDonald, Wilson said: “It is the same hamstring as before and he has had intensive treatment over this last eight or nine days. Hopefully, he will give himself a chance.
“You cannot be a one-man team but the service has to come to the goalscorers from somewhere and Kevin would be a good supply for us.”
On Cresswell, he said: “I am not an expert in this field but I am told it’s something to do with his contact lenses.
“There is inflammation which has left his eye swollen and sore and his vision is impaired. We thought he would be okay four or five days ago but he hasn’t been.”
Referring to Cresswell’s previous injuries, Wilson quipped: “At least the eye has helped his shoulder (recover), his shoulder has helped his hand (recover), and his hand has helped his nose.”
The Blades received a financial boost yesterday when Westfield Health agreed to extend their ground-breaking sponsorship deal of both Sheffield clubs. This season, for the first time, both United and Wednesday had joint shirt sponsors in Westfield Health and the Gilders motor group,
“We are delighted to move into a new era with the support, once again, of one of the biggest names in health insurance,” said Blades chairman Kevin McCabe. “We are proud to carry the Westfield name on our shirts and we hope we can get the new era of sponsorship off to a winning start at Wembley.”
Owls chairman Milan Mandaric also welcomed the deal – which sees Westfield’s logo appear on the front of Wednesday’s away shirts and United’s home shirts – saying: “We have achieved our aim of promotion and I am delighted that the Owls will enhance the brand and support of Westfield Health as key club sponsors in the Championship.”
Westfield chief executive Jill Davies said: “We are delighted to continue with our support. A large number of our policyholders are from Sheffield and the surrounding region so working with the clubs provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase to a significant proportion of our policyholders that we understand what’s important to them while also giving us the opportunity to inform about Westfield.”
Warnock gives his Wembley verdict: Page 22.