Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has dismissed claims his team are favourites to win this weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final against Charlton Athletic at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
And, as the psychological warfare surrounding Sunday’s contest intensified, the former England international encouraged his players to confront, not shy away from, the size of the prize at stake.
Pointing to the visitors’ Championship status, coupled with their victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the previous round, Clough said: “When you’re playing a team from the division above, that always takes precedent as to who is the favourites.
“I know we’re at home and that we’ve had some great results but I think the fact they’re in the Championship and we’re in League One has earned them that tag.
“I think it suited them that everyone was expecting Sheffield Wednesday to go through. I think that if people give them the underdog tag again then that suits them as well.
“We’re looking forward to the game but favourites? I can’t agree with that.”
Chris Powell, Clough’s opposition counterpart, made no secret of the fact that Charlton had used perceived slights about their chances of progressing at Hillsborough as a motivational tool after goals from Simon Church and Callum Harriott ended Wednesday’s hopes of reaching Wembley.
Clough, whose side are bidding to become the first third tier club to qualify for the last four of the competition since Wycombe Wanderers in 2001, said: “You shouldn’t be frightened of games like these. You should enjoy them.
“We’ve got to get past Charlton but the chance of going to Wembley, especially if you’re in League One, should be on every player’s mind.
“You see teams that look happy and you see teams that aren’t. I hope we look like a happy team. I hope that comes through on the pitch.”
“We’ve not changed any of the routines,” Clough added. “Everything is the same but, yes, we’ve told the lads to try and soak everything up.
“We’re just trying to get to Wembley for Sheffield United and everything it would mean to everyone here, more than anything from the past. The present is all that matters.
“Wembley is enough. That’s what should be on every player’s mind.
“Not to make them nervous or negative but to make them think ‘we’re 90 minutes away from Wembley here’. Most players will never have that opportunity again.”