Blades’ Scottish union eye Wembley invasion

Stefan Scougall
Stefan Scougall
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THE image of marauding Scots swinging from the crossbar after a famous triumph over the ‘Auld Enemy’ is almost as indelibly linked to the old Wembley as the Twin Towers.

Now, Sheffield United’s very own Tartan Army is planning on christening the new national stadium in a similar fashion if May 24 can bring a long overdue play-off success for the South Yorkshire club.

“I don’t remember it,” admits Stefan Scougall to The Yorkshire Post when asked about the afternoon Scotland beat England 2-1 and thousands of delighted supporters invaded the pitch in celebration.

“But I have seen the pictures. Hopefully, you are right (and United can re-enact the celebration) as that will mean there will be nine of us doing it.”

United’s Caledonian influence is well documented, it being no exaggeration to suggest the rolling of vowels dominates during the week at the club’s Shirecliffe training base.

If, as the Blades hope, the large contingent from north of the Border can bring a first play-off success at the eighth attempt then surely supporters will put all traditional rivalries aside and embrace all things Scotland.

To keep that dream alive, Swindon Town must be first seen off over two legs in the semi-finals and Scougall, fully fit again after a spell out injured, admits the sense of anticipation has been mounting all week.

“We can’t wait,” said the Edinburgh-born 22-year-old. “There is an excitement and a buzz that has been building all week and it kind of reminds us, the boys who were here last season, of the build-up to the Hull (FA Cup semi-final)game. Hopefully, we can do it on Thursday and get back to Wembley.”

Of the expected starting XI tonight, Scougall is one of either five or six players who will have started that all-Yorkshire semi-final against Hull City.

The Blades missed out on a possible Cup final appearance due to losing 5-3 but the squad who returned north to the Steel City on that April Sunday did so with pride very much intact after putting up such a brave fight against a top-flight team.

Clough’s side have, of course, been performing heroics in knockout football again this term. After seeing off West Ham United and Southampton – two teams who are destined to finish in the top half of the Premier League – United gave Tottenham Hotspur an almighty scare at Bramall Lane in the Capital One Cup semi-final before a late strike from Christian Eriksen settled matters in favour of the Londoners.

“I think it has been shown over the last year and a bit that the big games bring the best out of us,” said Scougall. “They have always kind of brought out a good performance in us.

“Nine times out of 10, we have had a positive result. No one can really put their finger on why, it is just the way it has been. So, hopefully, we can do that again against Swindon.”

Scougall, a boyhood Glasgow Rangers fan, moved south from Livingston in January, 2014. His first appearance was as a half-time substitute in an FA Cup fourth-round tie at home to Fulham that United drew before knocking out the then top-flight Londoners in a replay.

It set the tone for what has been a largely successful 17 months in England and there can be little doubt that Scougall’s attacking skills bring an extra dimension to the Blades.

“Things have gone well,” he said. “I probably didn’t expect things to go this well. When I joined, we were fighting to get out of a relegation battle.

“But we went from there to seventh in the league last year and then we also had a good Cup run. We have had a couple more cup runs this season and now we have got to the play-offs, we are potentially two games away from Wembley again.

“I don’t think I could have imagined that before I came down, even if I knew straight away that Sheffield United were the biggest club who were interested in me. Right now it shows I made the right choice, that has been proven.

“When I joined, maybe we were in a relegation battle but I knew, my agent knew and everyone knew what kind of potential this club has.

“Hopefully, we can fulfil some of that this season and get back into the Championship.

“All the fans are desperate for it and we want to make them happy by doing it.”

As for the two legs against Swindon, the second of which is at the County Ground on Monday night, Scougall is hopeful that the Blades can prevail.

“It is just a lottery,” added the Scot. “All the clubs know each other and how each other plays.

“I wouldn’t say there is a favourite. It is over two games, just don’t do anything stupid in the first leg. If you can win it then it gives you something to defend and take to Swindon with us.”

Last six games: Sheffield United WDLDDD, Swindon Town WLDLDD.

Referee: D Bond (Lancashire).

Last time: Sheffield United 2 Swindon Town 0; January 31, 2015; League One.