Knockout success can spur Blades in league

Neill Collins is aiming to make it an unhappy homecoming for Unitedite Micky Adams today as Sheffield United face Port Vale in the FA Cup.

Ever since the second round draw was made, the game has been billed as Adams against the club he supported as a boy before going on to manage them.

That partnership ended when the Blades were relegated from the Championship and Adams returns today to the Lane for the first time as an opposition manager.

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One of Adams’s best signings as Blades boss was centre-half Collins, 29, who has been instrumental this term in helping United push for promotion in the league.

But today, with a potentially lucrative third-round place up for grabs, any friendships will be put to one side.

“Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for Micky here a couple of seasons ago, but I will always be grateful to him for bringing me to Sheffield United,” said Collins.

“He has proved at Vale Park what a good manager he is and with him being a Unitedite it will be extra special for him coming back.

“He has worked tremendously hard and put some of his own money in so he definitely deserves the success he is enjoying at the present time.”

After United face Vale today in the FA Cup, they travel to Coventry City on Tuesday in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, but Collins believes success in the knockout competitions can help their league form.

A recent stutter has seen Doncaster Rovers leapfrog them into second place behind leaders Tranmere Rovers. United have won just once in their last four League One games.

Last season, the Blades reached the fourth round of the FA Cup before powering on in the league.

They were finally pipped for automatic promotion by city rivals Wednesday, and then suffered play-off final heartache at Wembley against Huddersfield Town.

“The FA Cup was a good springboard for our league form last season; we beat Oxford, Torquay and Salisbury and really kicked on in the league,” said Collins.

“We need to win at the weekend and put ourselves in the hat for the third round and, in turn, that will boost the confidence of the players.

“It doesn’t really matter how we achieve the victory, although it would be nice to put in a good performance after last Saturday’s defeat at Brentford.

“Port Vale are doing really well in League Two, but we couldn’t have asked for anything more than a home tie.”

Blades team-mate Ryan Flynn shares Collins’s view that Vale – second in League Two – will be tough opposition as they aim to clinch a place in the hat for tomorrow’s third-round draw.

“When you are in the second round of the FA Cup all that matters is progressing to the third round when you could draw a big gun.

“All you ask for is a home tie; the fans will be excited because it is the FA Cup and for the players it still has that ‘magic’, so we must make our home advantage count.”