WEMBLEY-bound Tottenham Hotspur may be, but the glory, glory night was not exclusively theirs – on an evening when Sheffield United penned their own captivating story.
There may have been no Que Sera Sera airings from the Kop at the end of the game last night, as there was following the Blades’s victory over another London outfit in Charlton Athletic last March when United booked a Wembley berth in last season’s FA Cup semi-finals, but senses had been filled in another thrilling cup run and evening.
And the pride was obvious for all to see and hear at the final whistle. Their red-and-white heroes certainly went out with a bang.
A standing ovation and honour in a 3-2 aggregate defeat was provided on a night when it was an iceman called Christian Eriksen who broke the Blades’ second compelling cup journey in just over a year with two deadly moments, one truly delectable and the other deft.
A native of Denmark, country of that famed storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, Eriksen threatened to end the Blades’s own fairytale prematurely with a 28th-minute goal that smacked of sheer class – and ensure there was no winter wonderland, despite the conditions.
We should really have known better.
Cue the entrance of a teenage lad who started this season at Ilkeston Town in Che Adams, who got the Blades’s dreaming of Wembley again, but it was Eriksen who penned the final words.
Some story, nevertheless. And perhaps another choice Blades cup entry will yet be inked in this season’s FA Cup.
Just a shame that this particular chapter was not quite finished as it possessed all the ingredients any writer worth his salt would have craved.
Following a weekend when many apathetic football supporter started to rekindle their love affair with the beautiful game again courtesy of some good old-fashioned cup shocks – served out by Yorkshire’s Bradford City and Middlesbrough – how we hoped there would be more last night.
Some may have plainly expected another giant-slaying. It was even Blades fan Jessica Ennis-Hill’s birthday, surely that had to be a sign.
Last night’s location – the oldest professional football ground in the world – was picture-perfect in a city which proudly lays justifiable claim to being the heart and soul of football.
Those hankering more for Football League devilment in the country’s other domestic cup competition, the Capital One Cup, also had Tottenham’s cup previous in Yorkshire to consider.
For the 5,500 Spurs’ fans shivering in the away end, that did not make for particularly pleasant reading, with an FA Cup exit up the M1 at Leeds United almost exactly two years to the day on January 27, 2013 being the sort of statistical reminder they probably didn’t wish to hear about.
Elland Road also witnessed a harrowing 4-1 FA Cup semi-final loss to Everton’s dogs of war in the spring of 1995, not forgetting a 3-1 fourth-round defeat to Barnsley in February 1998 when Jurgen Klinsmann was stretchered off with a suspected broken jaw.
Spurs were also not immune from pain at Bramall Lane, a venue where they hadn’t won in their previous five visits and the scene of a damning 6-0 league loss back in March 1993.
That was enough to make most Spurs fans decidedly lily-livered, with the Blades doing their best to pump up proceedings in the run-up to kick-off with an airing of the Rocky theme tune to get the red and white side of the Steel City in the mood.
The third instalment of the White Rose artisans versus Premier League aristocrats cup trilogy also had an extra classic traditional factor thrown into the pot for those salivating at the prospect of dining out on another giant-killing, the weather.
They say the weather is a leveller and you could have safely bet a few pounds that the snowy scenes before kick-off will have been greeted as warmly as a blast of Barbados sunshine by the Blades coaching staff, anxious that the night proved uncomfortable in every way for the well-heeled Spurs’ squad.
Mauricio Pochettino had spoke of being prepared and of reading the forecasts and not just those regarding the elements – warning his side to brace themselves up north.
The warning was comfortably heeded before Eriksen’s stunning free-kick – as soothing as a warming nip from a hip flask for Spurs’s travelling army, whose traditional ‘Spurs Are On the Way to Wembley’ song soon got a hearty rendition, with the home fans somewhat muted.
Despite the stadium announcer cajoling supporters to still believe at the interval – ‘we needed two goals to start with and still need two’ – you felt that this time it was uttered in hope rather than expectation.
Not a bit of it. The Shoreham Boys may have been doing their best to keep out the winter chill, but Adams got them on their feet with a 77th-minute leveller. The fuse was lit. ‘We only need one’ was the next utterance from the tannoy before pandemonium arrived when Adams promptly did it again.
That pesky Eriksen spoiled the fun, but the sense of intoxication and pride was still there for United fans come the end.
A hell of a story still.