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Owls can win a Tricky tie and dream of Wembley trip, says ex-boss Trevor

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He is the Sheffield Wednesday legend who took the Hillsborough club to two domestic cup finals in one season, back in 1993.

And Trevor Francis, who was also part of the talented Owls squad which won the League Cup in 1991, sees no reason why Stuart Gray’s present-day Wednesday cannot emulate the same feat, over a decade on - beginning with Saturday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie against Charlton at Hillsborough.

“It’s a favourable tie for Wednesday,” Francis, back in Sheffield as an ambassador for FA Cup partner Beko, told the Telegraph.

“Charlton are languishing at the wrong end of the Championship table and although you could argue Wednesday are, too, I think they are in slightly better form.

“My son is a Birmingham City supporter and he saw Charlton on Saturday - his verdict that Charlton weren’t all that impressive.

“Hopefully that continues this weekend, because it would be nice to see Wednesday in the last eight.”

Francis, who made over 80 appearances for Wednesday before later returning as manager, added: “It won’t be a capacity crowd at Hillsborough, but the loyalty of the Wednesday fans is absolutely incredible.

“I was talking to some Wednesday fans about the attendance on Tuesday night [a 3-0 defeat to Wigan, watched by 25,279 fans] and it’s phenomenal. This is a great chance for them to get to the quarter finals and if they get there, that is the moment when players, managers and fans start thinking about a trip to Wembley.

“Right now, it’s still a distant dream but it becomes a lot more real if you win one more game.

“The players and manager start to wonder if this could be their year - and the Owls fans, I’m sure, will start looking back to 1993.”

Francis, who made footballing history 35 years ago when he became the game’s first £1million player, had become player/manager by 1993, when Wednesday made four trips to Wembley in a matter of months.

First came the all-Sheffield FA Cup semi-final win over Sheffield United, before a League Cup final defeat to Arsenal.

The Owls were given the chance of revenge when they again took on Arsenal in the FA Cup final, but the game was drawn and the Gunners completed the double by winning the replay - scoring 30 seconds from the end of extra time.

“That was a special year,” Francis remembers.

“And it could have been even more special, if we had won one of the two trophies!

“The FA Cup defeat still hurts - we were 30 seconds away from taking it to penalties, and I still think about what could have been if we’d have held out for another half a minute.

“It’s all hypothetical now, of course, and it was a great year and I am sure many fans enjoyed it, despite the fact we didn’t get our hands on a trophy.”

During a glittering career, which included winning the European Cup twice under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, Francis appeared in a remarkable 13 cup finals - including the 1985 and 1986 Coppa Italia finals with Sampdoria, and the 2001 League Cup final with Birmingham City.

“I didn’t realise it was as many as 13... maybe that includes all the ones at school when I was a kid,” Francis, now a Sky Sports pundit, joked.

“But there’s no secret to any cup success. My only advice ever is to play the game, not the occasion.

“I’ve played in European Cup finals, managed in FA Cup finals and played at the World Cup, and it’s important that you approach it as just another game. Which, in reality, it is.

“I remember telling my Wednesday players exactly that, before we played United at Wembley. I told them that we had a better team than United, so play it as if it’s just another league game.

“In 1991 and 1993, winning those cup games gave us a lot of condifence as a club and as long as you’re not picking up injuries and suspensions or playing countless replays, it can be a good thing.

“A lot of big teams will play each other in the cup this weekend, so at least two are guaranteed to go out.

“On FA Cup days like this, things can either go for or against you... players can have brilliant games, or results can revolve around a poor call from an official.

“That is what makes football so intriguing, and part of why I feel it is still the number one sport in this country.

“I see a Premier League game every weekend, and there is always a story... and it isn’t always about the game.

“I always come away having seen something different and just when you think you’ve seen it all - whether it’s from playing, managing or commentating - there’s always something that shocks you.

“Maybe we can see another shock with Wednesday this season.”

n See next week’s Telegraph for the second part of Danny’s interview with Trevor Francis, on his time at Wednesday and current boss Stuart Gray.

 

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