CURTIS Woodhouse believes the stage is set for a Sheffield United player to step forward and emerge a hero at Wembley on Saturday.
The former Blades midfielder, now manager at Sheffield FC, says the dramatic removal of Ched Evans from the team last month will be overcome as it leaves the door open for someone else to take centre stage.
Evans is in prison for rape; his crime and punishment initially sending shockwaves through the club and its fan base.
“Setting to one side what he did, the effect on Sheffield United was obvious at the time,” says Woodhouse.
“And there is no denying we are going to miss Evans at Wembley; after all, he is a mobile and dangerous forward.
“United found it hard to score when he’d gone. I have played for teams when a centre-forward has been on fire and got you out of trouble even when you are playing badly. But the club knows they have had to deal with that and move on. Now is time for others to step up.”
Chris Porter was an obvious example of an individual escalation in importance - it was his header against Stevenage which put United through to the Wembley final against Huddersfield.
Now Woodhouse hopes he and his teammates can go one stage futher.
“United may have had previous bad experiences in play-offs, but any experience is good for you if you can learn from it. I think United will deal with the occasion well at Wembley,” he said.
Woodhouse has four personal United favourites.
“Harry Maguire impresses me so much,” he says. “I cannot believe how young he is. He is rock solid at the back and good on the floor.
“Richard Cresswell’s presence has been missed through injury. He has experience and is a handful.
“Then there’s Stephen Quinn - so effective when he comes inside from the left.
“Then there’s my mate Nick Montgomery. He has had a rough time with injuries but he tries his heart out both in training and in games.
“You can hang your hat on all four of those fellas.”