Sheffield United: ‘Our season starts now’ says Blades boss Nigel Clough

Nigel Clough

Nigel Clough

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They ran Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur all the way in their Capital One Cup semi-final, before tumbling out 3-2 on aggregate.

But Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough yesterday warned that his side will suffer no hangover from their midweek League Cup heartbreak - insisting: “Our season starts now”.

FA cup Semi Final Sheffield United v Hull City  13.4.14'Pic : Martyn Harrison'John Brayford  - Sheffield United ''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

FA cup Semi Final Sheffield United v Hull City 13.4.14'Pic : Martyn Harrison'John Brayford - Sheffield United ''� BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

The cup trail begins again next Tuesday, of course, when United host Preston in an FA Cup fourth-round replay, with the right to face either Manchester United or Cambridge in a lucrative, televised fifth-round tie at stake.

But before then, United must negotiate Swindon Town at Bramall Lane this afternoon. League leaders, League One pacesetters - and the side who gave Clough’s charges arguably their toughest test of the season so far, winning 5-2 at the County Ground back in September last year.

Swindon and Bristol City, in second, both lead ninth-placed United by 18 points, but Clough said: “It’s far from over for us.

“We have still got plenty to play for, in the league and the FA Cup. We’ve had a good four months and we’re a point off the play-offs with two or three games in hand on both teams.

“When you get knocked out of a cup competition, sometimes people say ‘well, that’s their season over now’.

“Not for us it isn’t. The season, for us, starts here.”

Clough, who confirmed that John Brayford will start against Swindon following his long-awaited £1.5m move from Cardiff City, could also hand Paul Coutts a Blades debut after signing the Scot from former club Derby County last week.

“Some of the lads are knackered after midweek,” the United boss revealed.

“So having fresh legs with the likes of John and Paul will do us good.

“I think Swindon have been away to Tenerife and we’ve played three games since they last played [on January 17, a 3-1 win over Chesterfield] so they’ll certainly be fresh.

“We have got to try and win the game, of course, but the main thing is not to lose it.

“There’s still plenty of games to go, we are only halfway through the season.

“When you see two teams on 54 points, it’s highly unlikely they are going to replicate that in the second half of the season. You don’t see too many teams go up with 108 points.

“So we know, roughly, what we have to do between now and the end of the season and we we will do everything we can to get in the top two. If not, we will focus on the top six and try to get promoted that way. We are not ruling anything out yet.

“There will be times in the coming weeks when the team will change radically.

“That won’t be an indication that we are slacking off, or that we think one particular games isn’t as important as another.

We want to go for it, in any competition. Even when we go to Preston in the FA Cup and rest eight players, we still go for it and that won’t change.”