Handshakes that sealed my respect

Dangerman: Birmingham midfield ace Wade Elliott has previous form against the Blades
Dangerman: Birmingham midfield ace Wade Elliott has previous form against the Blades

WADE Elliott has already plunged a knife deep into Sheffield United hearts once in his career.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that the Birmingham City midfielder, who in a previous guise as Burnley’s talisman was responsible for denying the South Yorkshire club a place in the top flight, will have no qualms about inflicting yet more pain on Bramall Lane should the opportunity arise during tomorrow’s FA Cup fourth-round tie.

“It was probably the most memorable and perhaps happiest day of my career so far,” Elliott, reflecting upon his 25-yard strike in the 2009 Championship play-off final, told The Star last night. “It wasn’t a bad goal either and transpired to be a pretty important one as well.

“But one of the other things that has also stayed with me about that day is bumping into a lot of the United lads afterwards – people like Nick Montgomery and Stephen Quinn – and being really impressed with the way they handled themselves. We were elated and they were obviously gutted but they went out of their way to shake all of ours hands, wished us the best and generally conducted themselves with an awful lot of grace.”

A more prosaic effort from Elliott during a third-round replay at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this month was responsible for booking City’s visit to a ground where he expects to lock horns with an old comrade-in-arms from his Turf Moor days. Kevin McDonald, an unused substitute for the Lancastrians on that historic afternoon at Wembley, has emerged as one of the most potent weapons in United’s armoury after severing his ties with Burnley during the close season.

“Kevin is a quality player,” Elliott said. “I’m pleased to see him doing well and he seems to be really settled because that’s going to bring out the best in him.

“From the videos we’ve watched of Sheffield United this week I can see he’s in really good form and I’m looking forward to coming-up against him. I always got on well with Kev and he has got lots of ability so it’s good to see him showing that again.

“If he’s being encouraged to demonstrate what he can do then that’s only going to bring out the best in Kev. We know he’s an important part of United’s team.”

Although returning to the Premier League is City’s priority - they travel north today sixth in the Championship table - Elliott is keen to impress in a tournament which commands a special place in his heart.

Indeed, it is almost seven years to the day that a sparkling performance for Bournemouth against Burnley at the same stage of the competition persuaded then manager Steve Cotterill to prise him away from Dean Court.

“We want to win every game we take part in,” Elliott said. “As far as I’m concerned a good cup run can only be a positive thing because it improves confidence and provides momentum.”

Elliott, who signed for Chris Hughton’s side in August, added: “It should be a good tie because we’ve done our homework on United and can see they’re doing really well. Plus, from a personal perspective, it’s (Bramall Lane) somewhere I always enjoy playing because there’s a really special atmosphere about the place.”

Teams and ref

United (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Collins, Maguire, Williams, Doyle, McDonald, Williamson, Quinn, Evans, Porter (4-4-2).

Birmingham (possible): Doyle, Murphy, Spector, Davies, Caldwell, Gomis, Redmond, Elliott, Mutch, Burke, Rooney (4-4-2).

Lee Mason: A member of the Select Group since 2006, Mason averages 2.85 yellow cards per game this season. Has issued only two red cards since August. Both of which came in the same match - Everton versus Chelsea - in October. Is based in Lancashire.

One to watch

Marlon King is City’s leading scorer this season. Has scored 11 goals since arriving at St Andrews from Coventry City last year. Former Cardiff City and Glasgow Rangers star Chris Burke is also prolific from midfield.

History lesson

Sheffield United were victorious the last time Birmingham City visited Bramall Lane - in March 2009 - but the Championship club won the most recent knockout tie between these two sides, in the Carling Cup, six years ago.